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In Insurance Fraud Case, Judge Rules Plaintiff Spoliated Evidence

Posted on September 20th, 2017

Follow our blog for updates on eDiscoveryIn the case of Brown v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyds, London, ET AL., Civil Action No. 16-cv-02737. (E.D. P.A. June 9, 2017), an insurance fraud case, the Defendants filed a Motion for Spoliation Sanctions and a Supplemental Memorandum in Support of Defendants’ Motion for Spoliation Sanctions in response to the Plaintiff’s refusal to submit his cell phone device during discovery.

The case was brought about in response to the Defendants’ refusal to pay an insurance claim issued by the Plaintiff. The claim was the result of a fire at the plaintiff’s property. The Defendants alleged that the Plaintiff breached the terms of his insurance policy and violated the Pennsylvania Insurance Fraud Statute. In May 2017, Defendants requested that the Plaintiff produce his cell phone used at the time of the May 5, 2015 fire. They suspected that the Plaintiff was involved in the setting of the fire.

The day prior to the Plaintiff’s scheduled production of the cell phone, the Plaintiff filed an objection claiming that he had lost the phone several months prior. As a result, the Defendants filed a Motion for Spoliation Sanctions.

  1. Curtis Joyner, District Judge, overruled the Plaintiff’s Objection. The Defendants’ Motion for Spoliation Sanctions was granted in part and denied in part. The Plaintiff was ordered to pay all fees and costs associated with the Defendants’ Motion for Spoliation Sanctions and the Supplemental Memorandum in Support of Defendants’ Motion for Spoliation Sanctions. The Plaintiff was also ordered to pay all costs already incurred associated with efforts to obtain records from the Plaintiff’s cellular carrier. Defendants’ were mandated to submit, within 14 days of the entry of the order, an affidavit or associated materials detailing the costs of the above.

The ruling states that the Plaintiff spoliated cell phone data in bad faith, leading to an adverse inference instruction and the above listed payments. The intent behind spoliation was proven based on the timing of the Plaintiff’s notice that the phone had been missing for months, revealed one day before the phone was to be produced. The defendant also provided no excuses or defenses for how the phone was lost, and evidence from a colleague highlighted potential collusion to commit insurance fraud, creating a motive to hide the phone.

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