Middle District of Georgia Grants Houston County Sheriff’s Motion to Exclude Evidence of Alleged Spoliation
The Middle District of Georgia has excluded evidence at Defendants spoliated electronic evidence. In West v. Talton, Case No. 13-338 (M.D. Ga., Nov. 2, 2015), Plaintiff sued Defendants, the Houston County Sheriff and the Sheriff’s Department, for employment discrimination. During discovery, Plaintiff deposed a Houston County representative and discovered that Defendants had failed to properly search and preserve certain email accounts. After the court reopened discovery, Plaintiff found that one of the Defendants’ email accounts had been erased and that server backups had also been deleted. Defendants recovered the hard drive of that Defendant and Plaintiff found over 1,000 relevant documents from that Defendant. As a result, before trial, Plaintiff sought an adverse jury instruction regarding the deletion of the emails, or in the alternative, the ability to present evidence that Defendants had destroyed information. Defendants filed a motion to exclude that evidence.
The court found that it was “not clear” that Defendants had acted maliciously or in bad faith. The deletion appeared to be part of a “routine procedure,” and the company Defendants hired to review the hard drive found no evidence that anything had been wiped. The court concluded that Plaintiff had not been prejudiced by the email destruction, as Plaintiff ultimately obtained the information from the hard drive and used it as evidence in his case. Accordingly, the court granted Defendants’ motion to exclude the evidence of spoliation.