Email Spoliation Claim Can Move Forward Against Defendant

21 Nov 2014

In Yontz v. Dole Fresh Vegetables, Case No. 3:13-cv-066 (S.D.Ohio, October 10, 2014), Plaintiff alleges retaliation and wrongful termination related to FLMA leave.  Plaintiff also claims that Defendant spoliated relevant emails.  Defendant moved for summary judgment on the spoliation allegation and on the underlying merits of the case.  The court considered the following facts in determining whether to grant Defendant summary judgment on the spoliation issue:

Plaintiff filed a Complaint with the Department of Labor (DOL) in June 2011.  In July 2011, the DOL sent Defendant a letter stating that it would begin an investigation into the potential FMLA violation and instructed Defendant to preserve all evidence.  In September 2011, Defendant sent a response to the DOL.  In November 2011, the DOL determined that Defendant had violated the FMLA and that Plaintiff had the right to file a private lawsuit.  Plaintiff timely filed suit on March 4, 2013.  Defendant’s document production revealed that emails from the relevant time period were missing.  Defendant admitted that the emails were missing, but claimed it did not know that litigation was imminent when the emails were deleted.

The court denied Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, finding that material facts were in dispute regarding Defendant’s possible spoliation that prevented the court from granting summary judgment.  In particular, the court focused on Defendant’s IT technician’s testimony that no automatic deletion system existed and that any emails with certain human resources keywords were supposed to have a ten-year retention policy, both of which led the court to conclude that a reasonable juror could find that the emails had been deleted manually.

Stay tuned for whether the spoliation issues makes its way to trial.

ILS – Plaintiff eDiscovery Experts