Court Denies Sanctions Without Evidence of Timing of Destruction (Illinois)


Sokn v. Fieldcrest Cmty. School Dist. No. 8, 2014 WL 201534 (C.D. Ill. Jan. 17, 2014).

In this discrimination lawsuit, the plaintiff was the only female principal in the defendants’ school district. The plaintiff alleged disparate treatment---including salary, health benefits, and pay increase---on the basis of her gender, when the school board voted against renewing the plaintiff’s contract. The plaintiff sought the production of audio recordings of closed-door school board meetings in which issues relevant to the matter at hand were discussed, only to find that the recordings had been destroyed without the mandatory vote to approve destruction according to the Illinois Open Meetings Act. The plaintiff contended that the destruction occurred when litigation was either underway or reasonably foreseeable, and sought default sanctions. The court reasoned that absent evidence of when the tapes were destroyed, it could not impose sanctions because the plaintiff “must be able to point to something for which the court can conclude not just that general duties were violated, but that specific duties to preserve were violated in bad faith.” Without any evidence of the timing of the destruction, the court concluded that sanctions were not appropriate in this case.

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