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Digital Forensics

iPad, iPhone, Gmail Spoliation Leads to Terminating Sanctions

Atalian U.S. New England, LLC v. Navarro

D. R.I. July 12, 2022


Why This Case Is Important

Oftentimes it’s easy forget how easily you can delete data from your cell phone or computer. In the world of e-discovery, there are severe consequences for deleting relevant evidence on these devices, as this case shows.


In this fraud case, the magistrate judge recommended that the court enter a default judgment against the defendant for withholding, and allegedly intentionally deleting, information from the defendants’ iPad, iPhone, and Gmail accounts.

The magistrate judge came to this recommendation based on the following facts:

  • Defendants received multiple preservation requests.
  • Defendants admit to deleting data relevant to the case.
  • Plaintiff showcased all the steps the defendants must have taken to delete the data—there were numerous steps required.
  • Because of explicit warnings the computer programs gave the defendant, the magistrate judge did not believe that these deletions were merely negligent.
  • False testimony was given to justify the deletion of this relevant data.

As a result of all these actions, the magistrate judge recommended a default judgment.


  • Default Judgment Recommended. The Magistrate Judge recommended granting the plaintiff’s motion based on the spoliation of relevant evidence that made it “impossible to effectively unscramble the egg and determine what is genuine and what is tainted.”
  • Adverse Inference Not Strong Enough. Interestingly, the court explained why a usually harsh adverse jury instruction would not cure the harm by the defendants, namely because the jury would have no way to determine the nature of the deleted evidence.
  • Why a Default Judgment? The district court judge stated that this was necessary “to protect the integrity of the judicial process” and that the “interests of justice and upholding the credibility of our civil litigation system dictate the entry of default judgment as the only reasonable sanction on this record.”

Legal Analysis

By, David Cohen, Esq., Chair - E-Discovery Group, Reed Smith LLP

This opinion serves as a cautionary tale to any litigant who may think they can get away with concealing relevant evidence. Plaintiff’s counsel commissioned excellent forensic work—resulting in finding and submitting an abundance of evidence that all 3 defendants intentionally deleted or withheld evidence and then lied about it.


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