|Spoliation of Evidence
Tampa Criminal Defense expert has just studied a recent Circuit Court Order in Florida where a Judge ruled a jury can learn of destruction of evidence on a USB Thumb drive and external hard drive in a civil case. Under the Florida Rules of Evidence (FRE), spoliation of evidence can result in sanctions. Spoliation is a legal term for destruction of evidence.
The Florida Circuit Court Judge noted that a party had intentionally deleted files on a USB Thumb Drive and external hard drive. Apparently the USB Thumb Drive had been thrown away. The Court also observed that the materials on the drives were subject to the Discovery Rules under a Court Order. Prejudice can occur when efforts of a litigant are obstructed. The court found that while data had been destroyed, the opposing party could still present evidence to support its allegations. The Jury in the case will be given an “adverse inference”
instruction that would tell the jury to assume that the deleted data on the USB Thumb Drive
would have hurt the offending party’s case. The Court noted, “The content of the files deleted from the Sheriff’s laptop, the external hard drive and the Armor computer is not known. Plaintiff’s expert may be able to reconstruct some or all of these files, but only at excessive cost to plaintiff. The thumb drive, of course, has been lost altogether.”
Excerpted Text of Court’s Ruling:
“1. The motion to impose sanctions for spoliation of evidence is granted.
2. At trial, the jury will be instructed that data deleted from the Sheriff’s Office laptop, the Armor computer and the external hard drive, and data on the discarded thumb drive, contained information detrimental to defendants.
3. Plaintiff’s expert shall not be required to perform further analysis in an effort to retrieve deleted files or data.
4. Plaintiff is entitled to recover reasonable attorney fees incurred in connection with the prosecution of the instant motion.”
Source: FLW Supp 1709PRIS
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