Thursday, August 25, 2022

Federal Court Confirms That There is No Recognized Cause of Action for Spoliation of Evidence But...

In the case of Atlantic States Ins. Co. v. Copart, Inc., No. 5:22-CV-1177 (E.D. Pa. June 30, 2022 Leeson, J.), the court denied in part, the Plaintiff insurance company’s Motion for Summary Judgment on a claim of a breach of duty on the part of Copart to preserve a vehicle.

In this matter, a worker's compensation carrier, had paid over a million dollars to compensate an injured employee.  The employee had been involved in an accident while driving a Mack truck.  By way of subrogation, the compensation carrier brought suit against several alleged tortfeasor to recover the monies the carrier had paid out to the injured employee.

The truck at issue had been sold by Copart before the compensation carrier could complete an expert inspection of the vehicle.   As such, the carrier had to discontinue its action against the tortfeasors.

The carrier then sued Copart for the damages the carrier suffered from having to discontinue the action against the tortfeasors.  The Defendant responded with a Motion to Dismiss.  

The court noted that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has not recognized a cause of action for negligent spoliation of evidence.

However, Judge Leeson held that, while Pennsylvania law does not impose on third parties a duty to preserve evidence, the Plaintiff could still have a cause of action for negligence generally if the court found that another duty, either contractual or otherwise, to maintain the truck involved in the accident was implicated by the facts of the case.

As such, the court denied, in part, the Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment on this basis in this matter.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (July 21, 2022).

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