Court Denies Plaintiff’s Spoliation Motion in Veterinarian Dispute

4 Sep 2015

In Grove City Veterinary Service, LLC et. al. v. Charter Practices International, LLC, Case No. 13-02276 (Aug. 18, 2015), Plaintiff veterinarians filed a Motion for Sanctions against Defendant veterinary hospital owner, claiming that Defendant had spoliated ESI.

Defendant had requested that one of the Plaintiff veterinarians produce his responsive emails. When Plaintiff searched for the emails on his own computer, he could not locate the emails and contacted Defendant’s IT department, asking that they search for them “regarding a legal matter.” The IT department informed Defendant’s legal department, who put a stop to the search, stating that Defendant would not participate in searching for documents responsive to its own discovery requests.  Based on Defendant’s refusal to perform the search, Plaintiffs moved for spoliation.

The District of Oregon first observed that it could only impose sanctions, particularly dispositive sanctions such as dismissal, for willful spoliation. The court found that Plaintiff had not shown that Defendant had destroyed any documents, either willfully or otherwise. Plaintiff’s computer forensics expert submitted a report stating that Defendant had remotely accessed the Plaintiff’s computer and had deleted the emails, but the court disregarded the expert’s evidence, finding it circumstantial. Further, Defendant produced evidence suggesting that the veterinarian had accidentally moved the emails himself.

The court also found that Defendant’s legal department’s response to the veterinarian’s request did not warrant sanctions, as Defendant had no duty to assist him (and later actually did make a good faith effort to help him retrieve the emails).  Accordingly, the court denied Plaintiff’s motion.

ILS – Plaintiff Electronic Discovery Experts