Earlier this month, a federal court of appeals issued a written opinion in a workplace injury case involving claims made by an employee that the allegedly negligent party intentionally destroyed or lost evidence necessary to his case. In the case, Schaefer v. Universal Scaffolding, the court held that a party claiming an opposing party intentionally lost or destroyed evidence must show that they would have had a “reasonable probability” of success if the evidence had been preserved.
If a party can make this showing, the spoliating party (the party that lost or destroyed the evidence) may face a variety of sanctions, including an adverse inference instruction to the jury that the evidence, had it been presented, should be assumed to disfavor the spoliating party. Sanctions may also include judgment being entered against the spoliating party.
The Facts of the Case
Schaefer worked in the construction industry. As a part of his job, he would assemble scaffolding. One day, a piece of scaffolding manufactured by the defendant came loose and struck him on the head. He sustained serious injuries and filed a product liability lawsuit in addition to a claim for Workers’ Compensation.