No Spoliation Where Defendants Altered Document Retention Policy on Website
In Guity v. Uniondale Union Free School District et. al., Case No. 15-5693 (E.D. N.Y., Mar. 31, 2017), Plaintiff, without an attorney, filed an employment lawsuit against Defendants under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and New York’s human rights statute for hostile work environment, race discrimination, retaliation, and interference with civil rights, among other claims. Plaintiff amended her complaint twice, and Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the third amended complaint; the magistrate judge recommended granting the Motion. Plaintiff filed a Motion for leave to amend the Complaint a fourth time as well as a motion for sanctions for alleged spoliation.
The court adopted the magistrate judge’s recommendation and dismissed the case, denying Plaintiff’s request to amend the Complaint a fourth time, as she then filed a motion to propose a fifth amended complaint, which rendered this motion moot. With respect to the sanctions motion, Plaintiff alleged that after she filed her opposition to the Motion to Dismiss the third amended complaint, Defendants had an altered document retention policy on the website which changed the wording of their electronic use policy. Plaintiff claimed that the new altered wording required teachers to delete emails when they are no longer required. Plaintiff averred that Defendants were conspiring with their counsel to “illegally dispose” of information held by teachers that may prove her allegations.
The court noted that spoliation is the destruction of evidence or failure to preserve evidence when litigation is pending or reasonably foreseeable. A party seeking spoliation sanctions has the burden of proving an obligation to preserve as well as intent and relevance.
Plaintiff did not point to any relevant evidence that Defendant had deleted or that she sought any such emails during discovery. She also failed to prove that Defendants destroyed any evidence with a culpable state of mind. As a result, the court denied the motion.