Top 5 Ediscovery Case Summaries – April 2013: Puerto Rico - “Careless” Deletion of ESI Warrants Exclusion of Evidence, Adverse Inference

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E.E.O.C. v. Ventura Corp, Ltd., 2013 WL 550550 (D.Puerto Rico Feb. 12, 2013).

In this case, the plaintiffs sought sanctions against the defendant for allegedly destroying relevant evidence of discriminatory hiring practices after they received notice in 2007. The defendant contested that the relevant information was deleted during a 2009 office restructuring and/or a 2010 software migration. The defense claims that it “neither maliciously destroyed evidence nor deliberately attempted to prevent the EEOC from inspecting any document or information.” The defendant also argued that it had no duty to preserve the deleted materials under 29 C.F.R. §1602.14, and that the plaintiff failed to show that relevant evidence had been spoiled. The court first considered the regulations, and found that the employer has an obligation to preserve “records having to do with hiring,” including resumes and emails by key decision-makers—both of which the defendant did not preserve. By extension, the court found the missing records potentially relevant and concluded that the plaintiffs met their burden by showing that relevant evidence was not produced by the defendant. Turning to the question of sanctions, the court noted its “inherent power” to impose sanctions when one party mishandles evidence and unfairly prejudices the other as a result. As such, the court concluded that the plaintiffs were placed at a significant disadvantage because they lacked records necessary to support claims of gender discriminatory hiring practices. Thus, because of the defendant’s “carelessness,” the court precluded the defendant from offering evidence related to the number of males who applied to the job during the relevant time period and ordered an adverse inference with regard to the deleted e-mail.

 

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