We recently came across an interesting eDiscovery case that backfired on the plaintiff when the defendant was able to produce email archive records and the plaintiff failed to support their own claims. Why? Because the plaintiff’s computer that stored digital records and email had been burned to total destruction.
Harassment case backfires because of eDiscovery best practices
In Evans vs Mobile County, the defendant looked to the court to have the plaintiff produce additional information and to have sanctions imposed because of the on-purpose destruction of her computer. The court reviewed the facts, which included that the plaintiff’s admission that the computer she had used during the period of her alleged harassment had been burned and replaced. The court then granted the defendant’s motions, which included compelling the production of further electronically stored information from the plaintiff’s new computer and also imposed sanctions that included an adverse interference instruction.
At first, the plaintiff produced no files when faced with the court order. Eventually she produced a small number of documents and admitted to the existence of some emails. The court requested that the defendant be allowed to inspect the plaintiff’s personal computer, which the plaintiff failed to comply with. It was then revealed that the plaintiff’s 13-year-old computer had crashed beyond repair, and she had burnt it to reduce the threat of identity theft. The judge then noted that some relevant emails might have been available on the plaintiff’s web based email service anyway. Noting all the conditions of the case, the judge ruled that the plaintiff had spoiled evidence in bad faith.
Spoliation of evidence sanctions must take into account the:
- Importance of the evidence destroyed
- Culpability of the party
- Fundamental fairness
- Alternative sources for the information destroyed
All the facts considered, the judge imposed sanctions on the plaintiff and the defendant had the harassment case reversed, based on their best eDiscovery practices, which ensured that they had complied fully with the law.
This case is a great example of how compliance best practices can work to benefit an organization. To find out how eDiscovery can benefit your organization, get in touch today
Watch our webinar Osterman's 2012 Outlook for Email Archiving for more information.