Post Process

Everything to do with E-discovery & ESI

Case Blurb: Alcoa, Inc.; Elements to establish need for adverse inference instruction, 5th Circuit

Posted by rjbiii on September 3, 2007

A party seeking the sanction of an adverse inference instruction based upon spoliation of evidence must establish these elements:

  • The party in control of the evidence had an obligation to preserve it at the time it was destroyed;
  • The records were destroyed with a “culpable state of mind;”
  • The destroyed evidence was “relevant” to the party’s claim or defense such that a reasonable trier of fact could find that it would support that claim or defense.

Additionally, the Fifth Circuit only permits an adverse inference sanction against a destroyer of evidence upon a showing of “bad faith” or “bad conduct.”
For the spoliator to have a culpable state of mind, it must act with fraudulent intent and a desire to suppress the truth. Such a state of mind is not present where the destruction is a matter of routine or where employees have simply deleted emails b/c they had no legitimate business reason. When evidence is destroyed in bad faith, that fact alone is sufficient to demonstrate relevance. However, when the destruction is negligent, relevance must be proven by the party seeking sanctions. Some jurisdictions outside of the 5th Cir. merely require a “gross negligence standard, rather than the “bad faith” standard. Consolidated Aluminum Corp. v. Alcoa, Inc., 2006 WL 2583308 (M.D.La).

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