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Legal Memorandum: Spoliation or Failure to Produce Evidence

Issue: What is the law regarding missing evidence and spoliation in the Virgin Islands and in the Third Circuit? Can the jury draw an adverse inference from the failure to produce evidence?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Spoliation evidence; Destruction or nonproduction of evidence; Failure to produce relevant evidence
Jurisdiction: Federal, Third Circuit, Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 315 F. Supp. 2d 760; 13 F.3d 76; 766 A.2d 749; 870 F. Supp. 1285; 700 A.2d 1038; 707 A.2d 180; 764 A.2d 475; 348 F. Supp. 2d 332
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 12/01/2006

The issue of spoliation or failure to produce relevant evidence in discovery has been addressed by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, as well as federal district courts and state courts in the Third Circuit.

In the law, “spoliation” is the term used to describe the destruction or withholding of evidence, generally by an adverse party.  Rosenblit v. Zimmerman, 766 A.2d 749, 754 (N.J. 2001).  Spoliation of evidence occurs when evidence relevant to a prospective or pending civil action is destroyed or lost, which interferes with the proper administration and disposition of the action.  ManorCare Health Serv., Inc. v. Osmose Wood Preserving, Inc., 764 A.2d 475, 479 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2001).  One court has defined it as “‘the destruction or significant alteration of evidence, or the failure to preserve property for another’s use as evidence in pending or reasonably foreseeable litigation.'”  MOSAID Techs., Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., 348 F. Supp. 2d 332, 335 (D.N.J. 2004). 

“The admissibility of spoliation evidence and the propriety of a spoliation inference are well established both under federal evidentiary law and Pennsylvania state law.”  Parkinson v. Guidant Corp., 315 F. Supp. 2d 760, 762 (W.D. Pa. 2004).

The remedy or sanction for spoliation of evidence is within the trial court’s discretion.  Baliotis v. McNeil, 870 F. Supp. 1285, 1289 (M.D. Pa. 1994).

When spoliation occurs, the law has developed a […]

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