In Insurance Fraud Case, Judge Rules Plaintiff Spoliated Cell Phone Evidence

20 Sep 2017

Follow our blog for updates on eDiscoveryIn the insurance fraud case of Brown v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyds, London, ET AL., Civil Action No. 16-cv-02737. (E.D. P.A. June 9, 2017), the Defendants filed a Motion for Spoliation Sanctions regarding the Plaintiff’s failure to submit his cell phone device during discovery.

The case was initiated due to the Defendants’ refusal to pay an insurance claim submitted by the Plaintiff. The claim related to a fire at the plaintiff’s property. The  Defendants denied the claim based upon allegations that the Plaintiff breached the terms of his insurance policy and violated the Pennsylvania Insurance Fraud Statute. In May 2017, Defendants requested that the Plaintiff produce his cell phone used at the time of the May 5, 2015 fire. The Defendants suspected that Plaintiff was involved in setting the fire.

The day prior to the scheduled production date of Plaintiff’s cell phone, the Plaintiff filed an objection stating he could not produce the phone because he had lost it at some point during the prior few months.  The Defendants then filed a Motion for Spoliation Sanctions.

In ruling on the Motion, the Court concluded that the Plaintiff spoliated the cell phone data. The Court based its finding of bad faith intent to spoliate on numerous findings, which included the timing of the Plaintiff’s notice regarding the phone:  knowing that that the phone had been missing for months, but concealing this information until the day before the phone production date. Other findings that supported the Court’s determination of intent to spoliate were the Plaintiff’s failure to provide a credible explanation of how the phone was lost, and the presentation of evidence by the Defendants regarding the Plaintiff’s motive to hide the phone (re information about potential collusion to commit insurance fraud).

In the Court’s Order, Plaintiff was ordered to pay all fees and costs associated with the Defendants’ Motion for Spoliation Sanctions.  The Plaintiff was also ordered to pay all costs already incurred by Defendants to obtain records from the Plaintiff’s cellular carrier.