Though Destruction of Evidence was Egregious, Lesser Sanctions Ordered (New York)


Hawley v. Mphasis Corp., 2014 WL 3610946 (S.D.N.Y. July 22, 2014).

In this employment discrimination case, the plaintiff moved for sanctions due to defendant’s alleged discovery violations. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant failed to perform good faith searches for documents; failed to produce pertinent information during discovery; failed to preserve certain evidence; and destroyed pertinent evidence. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant had deleted all information from his work computer, as well as his supervisor’s, and did not produce records of information vital to his case. Because this information was necessary to his claims, the plaintiff moved for default judgment. The defendant countered and claimed that the plaintiff’s motion was simply an “effort to leverage a settlement” as he “cannot make out a prima facie case of discrimination.” In addition, the defendant argued that throughout the case he acted in good faith and the spoliation of the plaintiff’s work computer complied with “ordinary business protocols.” The court rejected the defendant’s claim of good faith, and stated that it “is well-established that bad faith is not required to merit sanctions.” However, the court denied the plaintiff’s request for an adverse inference because even though gross negligence was found on the defendant’s duty to preserve, the plaintiff did not show that the information was relevant to his case. The court did grant an adverse inference with respect to the destruction of evidence on the supervisor’s computer, however, holding that the destruction was so egregious that it created a presumption of relevance which the defendant failed to rebut. Finally, the court also granted an adverse inference for the plaintiff in regards to the records which were not produced. Though the court granted some sanctions, the plaintiff’s request for litigation ending sanctions was not granted, because the court concluded that the plaintiff did not show why “a lesser sanction would not be appropriate instead.”

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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