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Court Dismisses Case, Finding No Facts To Support Spoliation of Evidence

Posted on February 16th, 2018

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Follow our posts to learn about eDiscovery newsSteadfast Ins. Co. v. Progressive Casualty Ins. Co., No.3:16-cv-1574-J-34JBT, Dist. Court (M.D. FL 2017) involves preservation of Shawnta Braithwaite’s (“Braithwaite”) 2007 Acura following an accident that injured her and others. Braithwaite’s insurer, Progressive, took possession of the car. Braithwaite filed suit against ACME due to its negligent roadwork. Plaintiff Steadfast is ACME’s insurer. According to Steadfast, a number of parties in the lawsuit sent notice to Plaintiff regarding preservation of the car preserved.  Despite that, Defendant Progressive discarded the vehicle. ACME and its insurer, Plaintiff Steadfast, allege that they were thus unable to complete their investigation into Braithwaite’s loss, which led to a larger settlement.

Based on these facts, Plaintiff Steadfast filed suit in state court asserting a spoliation of evidence claim against Defendant Progressive. Plaintiff Steadfast alleged that Defendant Progressive breached its legal and contractual duty to ACME and Steadfast, to preserve its insured’s 2007 Acura while the litigation was ongoing so that all parties had an opportunity to inspect the vehicle. Progressive moved to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim.

Spoliation of evidence is a cause of action which holds someone liable for negligently or intentionally destroying material which is needed as evidence in litigation. In its Motion, Defendant Progressive contends that Plaintiff Steadfast did not properly stated a claim for negligent spoliation of evidence. Specifically, Progressive argues that the the complaint is insufficient because Plaintiff failed to allege facts supporting a finding that Defendant Progressive owed a duty to Plaintiff Steadfast to preserve the 2007 Acura and that Plaintiff Steadfast failed to present facts showing that it suffered an injury because of the vehicle’s destruction. In response, Plaintiff Steadfast argues that Defendant Progressive had a duty to preserve the 2007 Acura because it received notices requesting that it preserve the vehicle and could reasonably have foreseen that the vehicle was necessary to prove comparative fault defense.

Upon consideration of the record and the arguments of the parties, the Court concluded that the complaint lacked factual allegations sufficient to establish that Defendant Progressive had a duty to preserve the 2007 Acura.  Specifically, Plaintiff Steadfast failed to allege that it or ACME notified Defendant Progressive, either in writing or orally, that it sought the preservation of the 2007 Acura. Accordingly, the court granted Defendant’s motion, finding that Plaintiff Steadfast did not plead sufficient facts to state a claim for negligent spoliation of evidence.

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