Court Finds No Spoliation Despite Destruction of Privileged Files
In Charvat et. al. v. Valente et. al., 12-5746, the Northern District of Illinois considered whether Defendant Carnival Corporation had engaged in spoliation when it deleted certain files from its employees’ computers after those employees had ceased working for Carnival.
Plaintiffs sued based upon alleged improper conduct by one of the defendants, a marketing company. Carnival investigated the allegations and produced most of the documents relating to its investigation. Carnival admitted that it had destroyed certain relevant files belonging to two paralegals who no longer worked at Carnival, consistent with their policy to delete files 30 days after conclusion of an employee’s employment relationship with the company.
Plaintiffs moved for sanctions for spoliation based upon Carnival’s deletion of the files. Carnival responded that it had no reason at the time to believe that litigation would be imminent. Carnival also argued that, in any event, the files were privileged and would not have been produced to Plaintiffs in the first place.
The court agreed with Carnival, concluding that the Plaintiffs presented no evidence that Carnival had acted with the requisite bad faith when it destroyed the files, but rather that it had deleted the files consistent with company policy. The court also found compelling Carnival’s argument that the deleted items qualified as privileged work product.