Jury to Decide ESI Spoliation Issue in Wrongful Termination Suit
In Evans v. Quintiles Transnational Corp., Case No. 13-00987 (D. S.C., Dec. 23, 2015), Plaintiff sued Defendant, her former employer, for wrongful termination. She alleged she was terminated in retaliation after she expressed a desire to report her supervisor for an argument they had about commission.
On summary judgment, the court disposed of all Plaintiff’s claims except for one breach of contract claim and the case moved forward to trial. Before trial, Plaintiff filed a motion in limine for adverse inference instruction to the jury regarding alleged missing evidence. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant failed to produce a computer file that documented her supervisor’s alleged wrongdoing and also failed to produce commission-related documents. Plaintiff claimed that she had alerted Human Resources that she had notes on her computer that supported her retaliation claim, after which her Defendant halted Plaintiff’s access to her computer. After her termination, Plaintiff’s counsel sent a letter to Defendant alleging retaliation and alleging damages over $1 million. The letter did not mention the computer notes and did not demand a litigation hold.
Per company policy, Defendant took Plaintiff’s work computer from her upon her termination, and deleted her Outlook email file. Defendant then reimaged the computer for use by another employee. During discovery, Plaintiff requested turnover of certain computer files, including her Outlook calendar and a file folder, and documents regarding commissions. Defendant responded that no such documents existed. Accordingly, Plaintiff filed her Motion for Sanctions asking for an adverse inference instruction.
The court held that it could not rule on the computer spoliation issue, as there existed questions of credibility that a jury would need to decide. The court granted the motion in part and denied it in part, holding that it would submit the spoliation issue to the jury.