This case re-emphasizes the high and “stringent” standard for granting an adverse inference instruction under FRCP 37(e)(2).
In this fraud case between an employee and employer, the plaintiff filed motion for spoliation sanctions based on the defendant’s failure to preserve relevant text messages.
During discovery, a co-defendant stated that he had exchanged text messages with another defendant concerning issues involved in this case. The co-defendant was unable to produce these text messages “because he had obtained a new phone and had not preserved the contents of his previous phone, despite being put on notice to do so…in a litigation hold letter.”
The plaintiff asks the court to “impose an adverse inference that the content of the text messages was unfavorable” for the defendants.
Download the PDF version of Neely v. The Boeing Company case law alert here.
This case provides an excellent analysis of Rule 37’s “intent to deprive” standard and the reason for the stringent standard. Unless you can show a party intentionally destroyed data, you cannot infer that the data would be unfavorable. Data lost through negligence could be favorable or unfavorable to the party whose data was not preserved. Interesting though that there isn’t mention of the co-defendant's phone data, which should have had the missing texts.