Court Denies Defendant’s Motion for Spoliation; Grants Summary Judgment in Favor of Plaintiff

12 Feb 2018

Our blog explains ESI caselaw.In IBM v. Naganayagam, No. 15-cv-7991, (S.D.N.Y. 2017), Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment and Defendant filed a cross-action pursuant to Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for spoliation sanctions.

In this action, the Plaintiff sought to rescind several Equity Award Agreements (“EAAs”) given to Defendant during his employment. EEAs are meant to be used to retain certain employees, through stock and financial bonuses, subject to the employee remaining with the company. Here, Defendant left Plaintiff’s employ and went to work for a competitor.

In October of 2016, Defendant filed a motion to compel production of emails related to the Defendant’s departure, and a deposition from Defendant’s former supervisor, a list of Defendant’s client accounts, Defendant’s own emails from the term of his employment with Plaintiff, IBM. In December of 2016, the Court denied Defendant’s request to compel the production of both his own emails and information about client accounts, and his supervisor’s emails. The Court said the Defendant had failed to establish the relevance of the materials requested. However, the Court did grant Defendant’s request for strategic plans generated by the Plaintiff.

Plaintiff stated it was unable to locate the plans requested and filed a motion for summary judgment in January of 2017. Defendant filed a cross-motion for spoliation sanctions including a request for adverse inference sanctions.

When considering the defendant’s request for sanctions, the Court explained that Rue 37(e) only allows for adverse inference sanctions were the non-moving party acted intentionally to deprive the other party the use of the ESI. In this case, Defendant alleged that the Plaintiff negligently deprived the Defendant of the ESI requested—not intentionally, so the Court denied the request for adverse inference. The court also determined the deprivation of the ESI requested did not prejudice the Defendant. Considering these facts, the Court determined there was no genuine dispute of material fact, and therefore the motion for summary judgment by Plaintiff was granted.