Northern District of Ohio Denies Motion to Amend Complaint to Add Spoliation Claims

14 Aug 2015

In Rodriguez v. United States, 14-02526 (July 14, 2015), the Northern District of Ohio considered a plaintiff’s motion to amend his complaint to add spoliation claims.

Plaintiff sued the U.S. federal government, claiming that he received negligent treatment at a Department of Veteran Affairs (“VA”) hospital that directly caused a heart attack. Plaintiff later sought to amend his complaint to add claims of spoliation, claiming that the VA medical director and the Assistant U.S. Attorney either spoliated Plaintiff’s electronic medical records or relied upon spoliated medical records when investigating Plaintiff’s claims and drafting the Motion to Dismiss the case.

The court reviewed the following five requirements for a spoliation claim in Ohio: 1) at the time of the spoliation, there was pending or probable litigation; 2) the spoliator knew litigation existed was probable; 3) the destruction of evidence was willful and for the purpose of disrupting the other party’s case; 4) the case was disrupted; and 5) damages were proximately caused by the spoliation. The court noted that a claim that a party relied upon spoliated evidence is not itself spoliation, and thus the court dismissed that argument. To the extent that Plaintiff alleged the Defendants spoliated the evidence themselves, the court found that Plaintiff had not established any facts that could lead to this conclusion. In fact, the court observed that Plaintiff had attached copies of the allegedly spoliated medical records to his initial complaint, and the court concluded that Plaintiff could not both have possession of records and simultaneously claim they were destroyed.  Based on the forgoing, the court denied Plaintiff’s motion to amend his complaint.

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