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Case Blurb: Santana; Federal Court Cites Florida Law on Spoliation Sanctions

Posted by rjbiii on April 8, 2011

Under Florida law, the party seeking spoliation sanctions must prove
(1) that the missing evidence existed at one time;
(2) that the alleged spoliator had a duty to pre-serve the evidence; * and
(3) that the evidence was crucial to the movant being able to prove its prima facie case or defense.”

Even if these three elements are met, before a court may impose spoliation sanctions, the movant must also show, through direct or circumstantial evidence, that the alleged spoliator acted in bad faith.

* “A party has an obligation to retain relevant documents . . . where litigation is reasonably anticipated.” Managed Care Solutions, Inc. v. Essent Healthcare, Inc., 2010 WL 3368654, at *6; see also Wilson, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88429, 2008 WL 4642596, at *2 (stating that “[t]he law imposes a duty upon litigants to keep documents that they know, or reasonably should know, are relevant to the matter.”) (footnote omitted).

Santana v. RCSH Opers. LLC., CASE NO. 10-61376-CIV-SELTZER, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21785 @ *4-6 (S.D. Fla Feb. 18, 2011).

Posted in 11th Circuit, Case Blurbs, Case Blurbs-FL, Florida, Magistrate Judge Barry S. Seltzer, S.D. Fla., Sanctions, Spoliation | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in 11th Circuit, Bankruptcy Court, Bankruptcy Judge Michael G. Williamson, Case Blurbs, Case Blurbs-FL, Spoliation, State Courts | Leave a Comment »

FL Case Blurb: Martino, FL Supreme Court Finds no Separate Cause of Action for 1st Person Spoliation Claims

Posted by rjbiii on June 21, 2008

Post Process-This opinion is from the Supreme Court of Florida, and covers only law in Florida, which will differ is some aspects to Federal Law.

[W]e have held that when evidence was intentionally lost, misplaced, or destroyed by one party, trial courts were to rely on sanctions found in Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.380(b)(2) and that “a jury could well infer from such a finding that the records would have contained indications of negligence.” Id.; see Mercer v. Raine, 443 So. 2d 944, 946 (Fla. 1983) (willful violation of trial court’s discovery order justified imposition of harsh sanction of default judgment against noncomplying party). If the loss of the evidence was determined to be negligent, the Third District’s [(an appellate court)] rebuttable presumption of negligence for the underlying tort applied. However, we clarified that the presumption only applied when “the absence of the records hinders [the plaintiff’s] ability to establish a prima facie case.” Id. This rebuttable presumption shifted the burden of proof under section 90.302(2), Florida Statutes (1985), so that the presumption “is not overcome until the trier of fact believes that the presumed [negligence] has been overcome by whatever degree of persuasion is required by the substantive law of the case.” Id. at 600-01 (quoting Caldwell v. Division of Retirement, 372 So. 2d 438, 440 (Fla. 1979)).

Martino v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 908 So. 2d 342, 346-347 (Fla. 2005)

Special Concurrence (Wells, J):

I concur with the majority’s opinion and reasoning in affirming the Fourth District Court of Appeal’s decision that there is no separate cause of action against a first-party defendant for spoliation of evidence. In instances in which it is demonstrated that a first-party defendant has a duty by reason of statute, regulation, court order, or discovery rule to maintain and preserve evidence, I believe this Court has already decided that the presumption from Public Health Trust of Dade County v. Valcin, 507 So. 2d 596, 601 (Fla. 1987), or sanctions should be used by the trial court. No separate cause of action, therefore, should be found to exist.

Martino v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 908 So. 2d 342, 348 (Fla. 2005)

Posted in Case Blurbs-FL, FL Sup. Ct. Justice Charles T. Wells, Florida, Spoliation, State Courts | Leave a Comment »