Spoliation of Evidence: Prior Knowledge of Evidence Existing is Important
Sometimes significant evidence is destroyed or suppressed by one party so that it makes it more difficult for the opposing party to win its claim. The act of destroying or otherwise tampering with important evidence such that it hurts the opposing party’s case is called spoliation. It is sometimes possible to hold an individual or entity liable for spoliation, regardless of whether the party acted intentionally or not.
In the case of Lyons v. Richmond Community School Corporation (May 8, 2013), a high school student with Down syndrome choked on a sandwich in the school cafeteria and later died. After the student’s death, the school informed its insurance company of the incident, and the insurance company performed an investigation. However, during the investigation, the insurance company never discovered that the school had video surveillance of the incident, and the video was automatically destroyed after 90 days. The parents of the student claimed that the insurance company had a duty to preserve the video surveillance evidence of their daughter’s death. However, the Indiana Court of Appeals determined that the insurance company had no duty to preserve the video footage evidence since it had no knowledge of it until after it had been automatically deleted after 90 days. So if an individual or entity does not have knowledge of potentially significant evidence existing before it is automatically destroyed, that individual or entity may not necessarily be held liable as a spoliator of evidence.
Spoliation cases are often complex and involve the court weighing a number of factors in determining whether or not to hold a party liable. It is best to consult an attorney about your specific situation if you believe spoliation has occurred.

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