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Post-Rimkus Duty of Preservation and Spoliation of Evidence Decisions (Part II)

December 3, 2013

We are blogging on “Non-competes, Trade Secrets, Fiduciary Duties, and the Inevitable Disclosure Doctrine.” Mark Oberti has prepared a detailed paper on all of these issues, which can be found here.

The following post discusses how other courts view Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc. v. Cammarata, 688 F. Supp. 2d 598, 612–13 (S.D. Tex. 2010).

The Northern District of Texas also looked to Rimkus for guidance in resolving claims of spoliation of evidence in February 2011. In Ashton v. Knight Transp. Inc, the plaintiff was the widow of automobile accident victim who was allegedly struck by a truck after exiting his own vehicle following a prior accident. 772 F. Supp. 2d 772, 776 (N.D. Tex 2011). The plaintiff sued the driver and owner of the truck. Id. Subsequently, she moved for sanctions, alleging the defendants had destroyed, altered, and concealed evidence, before and after suit was filed. Id. Specifically, she alleged that defendants destroyed evidence on the truck and tires that implicated them in her husband’s death, and destroyed or altered communications between defendants and the driver, which showed defendant’s complicity in the driver’s post-accident conduct. Id.

The court looked to Rimkus for nearly every step of its spoliation analysis. It looked to Rimkus when citing that sanctions are the appropriate remedy for spoliation. Id. at 799. Moreover, it adopted the Rimkus three-element definition of spoliation, and the Rimkus definition of the duty to preserve evidence. Id. at 800. It adopted the Rimkus standard for determining whether prejudice had occurred. Id. at 801. Then the court cited Rimkus for a list of appropriate sanctions to impose as a remedy for spoliation of evidence. Id.

After framing its analysis largely through the lens Rimkus established, the court found the plaintiff’s allegations to be true, and that the defendants had engaged in spoliation of evidence. The court granted the plaintiff’s motion, struck the defendants’ pleadings and defenses to liability, and directed the plaintiff that she could, if she chose, file an Amended Complaint adding a claim for punitive damages. Id. at 806.

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