Court Denies Plaintiff’s Spoliation Motion After Missing Video is Found
In Palmer v. Allen, et. al., Case No. 14-12247 (E.D. Mich., Sept. 28, 2016), Plaintiff sued the police department for the city of Ecorse, Michigan, as well as police officers Allen and Trevino, after an incident during a traffic stop. Plaintiff was the passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over for driving without headlights, and the police asked the driver to step out of the vehicle. Plaintiff began recording the event on his cell phone.
The driver was arrested, and Plaintiff began to walk home; however, he was detained for failure to wear a seatbelt. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Allen verbally and physically abused him; after his arrest, he was placed in a cell, where he alleges he was also verbally and physically abused by Defendant Trevino. He sued Defendants over the incident.
During discovery, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Sanctions against Defendant City of Ecorse, alleging that Defendants spoliated evidence by destroying the video evidence from the jail. The court noted that Plaintiff filed the case after the most recent amendments to the Federal Rules went into effect, and as such, the amended FRCP 37 would apply to a request for spoliation sanctions. However, the court pointed out that sanctions under FRCP 37 are only applicable to parties to the action.
The City of Ecorse had been dismissed from the case prior to the filing of the spoliation motion, and there was no evidence that the remaining defendants had destroyed the videos, so the court denied Plaintiff’s Motion. However, the court also determined that the allegedly destroyed videos had been recently recovered, two years after Plaintiff requested them. Plaintiff’s expert found thousands of video files on a hard drive, and Defendants then claimed their own expert looked through those videos and found the missing video in question. The court cautioned the parties about diligence in complying with proper discovery requests to avoid wasting court resources.