This is part two of a four part series discussing the spoliation of evidence. For previous posts discussing the spoliation of evidence, please click here.
Recently, spoliation of evidence was the central issue in a trucking accident case I litigated on behalf of a 19 year-old man. A tractor-trailer driver disregarded a red light at a controlled intersection, colliding violently with my client’s pick-up truck. He sustained a severe head injury which resulted in the permanent loss of his sense of smell, as well as cognitive and physical injuries. The force of the crash ejected him from his vehicle. In fact, he was not sure whether he was wearing his seat belt (which presented a separate challenge in the case).
On the day I first met with him I immediately sent to the tractor trailer owner (a transport company which owned a fleet of trucks) a detailed “spoliation of evidence” letter. In my letter, I reminded that company that it had a legal obligation to preserve all physical, video, audio, documentary and other related forms of evidence attendant to the crash. In my letter, I stated that the company must retain and preserve such evidentiary items (including the wreckage of the tractor trailer itself) until the conclusion of any lawsuit or until a judicial order required otherwise. After filing suit, I would later learn that the tractor trailer had been destroyed well before receipt of my spoliation of evidence letter.
The tractor trailer driver testified resolutely that he had the right-of-way. In contrast, because of his cognitive injuries, my client’s vague memory that he had the right of way was weak. There were no eyewitnesses. The police report was neutral about which of the two drivers had the green light. The skid marks, photographs of the wreckage and other available physical evidence were inconclusive about which driver caused the crash.
The traffic lights were working perfectly. One of these men ran a red light. One of these men was 100% responsible for the crash. The other man was entirely blameless.