Friday, April 6, 2018

Adverse Inference Sanction Granted Due to Spoliation of Fire Scene

In the case of Dyvex  Industry v. Agilex Flavors & Fragrances, Inc., No. 12 - CV - 0979 (M.D. Pa. Feb. 27, 2018 Mannion, J.), the court granted a defense Motion for an  Adverse Inference Spoliation Sanction under a finding that the Plaintiff had spoliated a fire scene in a products liability suit.  

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff had identified the Defendant’s product as a likely cause but went ahead with the demolition of the fire scene without giving the Defendant an opportunity to inspect.   The court also noted that the Plaintiff had informed the Defendant that the scene was being preserved, at which point demolition had already begun.  

The court found that the Defendant was prejudice by the destruction of potential alternative cause evidence.  

While the court noted that there was no blanket rule that a Plaintiff must always preserve an entire fire scene, here, there were no exigent circumstances requiring any alteration of the scene, such as safety hazards.   The court therefore found that the fault on this issue largely lay with the Plaintiff for disturbing the fire scene without notice to the defense.  

The court found that dismissal was not appropriate as the prejudice to the Defendant was partially mitigated by photographs and preservation of some evidence from the scene.

As such, the court found that the Plaintiff’s partial failure to preserve evidence was punishable with an adverse inference instruction.  

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.  The Court's Order can be viewed HERE.

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck of the Reed Smith law firm in Philadelphia for bringing this case to my attention.  

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