Post Process

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FL Case Blurb: Elec. Mach. Enters.; Spoliation as a Cause of Action in Fed/Fl. Courts

Posted by rjbiii on December 17, 2009

Spoliation encompasses two related but distinct concepts–an independent cause of action and evidentiary sanctions. The first form of remedy for spoliation is an independent cause of action at common law, arising under state tort or negligence law. There is no federal cause of action for spoliation. See, e.g., Sterbenz v. Attina, 205 F. Supp. 2d 65, 74 (E.D.N.Y. 2002) (holding that the inherent power of a federal court to sanction litigants “does not effectively afford a federal cause of action for spoliation where a state law claim does not exist”). At one time, Florida law recognized both a first-party cause of action brought by a party to the underlying lawsuit and a third-party cause of action brought against a non-party for either negligent or intentional spoliation of evidence. See Gayer v. Fine Line Constr. & Electric, Inc., 970 So. 2d 424, 426 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007). However, after the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling in Martino, there is no longer a first-party cause of action for spoliation against the same defendant as in the underlying litigation. Martino v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 908 So. 2d 342, 346 n.2 (Fla. 2005); Gayer,970 So. 2d at 426. In Martino, the Florida Supreme Court held that the availability of sanctions, including the imposition of evidentiary presumptions and inferences, provides sufficient protection to the plaintiff where the defendant in the litigation commits negligent or intentional spoliation of evidence. 908 So. 2d at 346-47. As noted, Martino specifically did not displace the independent cause of action for spoliation against a third party. Id.; Jimenez v. Cmty. Asphalt Corp., 968 So. 2d 668, 671 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007).

Elec. Mach. Enters. v. Hunt Constr. Group, Inc. (In re Elec. Mach. Enters.), 2009 Bankr. LEXIS 2374 at *183-84 (Bankr. M.D. Fla. 2009)(emphasis added).

Case Summary may be viewed here.

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