Defendant Fails to Meet its Burden for Spoliation Allegations Against Plaintiff

14 Jun 2013

All this week, our blog has been discussing the consequences of defendant’s failure to preserve evidence after a duty to preserve electronic data has been imposed. However, it is not always the defendant accused of spoliation. In the case Research Foundation of State University of New York v. Nektar Therapeutics, No. 1:09 cv 1292 (2013 WL 2145652), the defendant filed a Motion for Sanctions against the plaintiff for alleged spoliation of electronic evidence.

The court first reviewed the standard for spoliation of evidence:

  1. A duty to preserve evidence was in place when the documents or data was destroyed;
  2. The evidence was destroyed with a culpable state of mind; and
  3. The evidence was relevant to a party’s claims or defenses.

The defendant alleged that plaintiff was grossly negligent in failing to preserve documents that were relevant to the defense. The plaintiff contends that the  preservation of evidence was sufficient and that the defense failed to meet the relevancy requirement for spoliation.

Unfortunately, the order does not go into great detail about what, exactly the defendant was accusing the plaintiff of destroying (although this lack of sufficient detail was likely the main consideration in the court’s decision.) The court found that plaintiff had a comprehensive preservation policy, that verbal and written litigation holds were implemented, that email back-up tapes were preserved and confirmed that no custodian had deleted data regarding the matter. Basically, everything about the plaintiff eDiscovery strategy and preservation of evidence was sufficient.

As the defense failed to offer any evidence of what the alleged “destroyed data” was or whether such was relevant, the Motion for Sanctions was denied.

ILS – Plaintiff Electronic Discovery Experts