Central to every injury lawsuit in Florida is the evidence. The truth is important, of course, but in the end, it’s more about what you can prove. That’s why motions to suppress are so important – if one party can suppress evidence from another, they have a better shot at winning. But what if one side negligently fails to preserve relevant evidence?
This is called spoliation, and it happens quite a bit, unfortunately, particularly when a plaintiff doesn’t file a lawsuit right away. That’s because there is certain evidence naturally in defendant’s possession – i.e., security tapes, vehicles, product parts, etc. If a key piece of evidence is lost or destroyed, plaintiff is going to face significant hurdles in proving the case. It could even mean the case can’t be proven. But that does not mean plaintiff is necessarily without remedy. Courts have wide latitude and authority to sanction for spoliation of evidence. The primary limit on this authority is that discovery rules on evidence are only applicable to acts of spoliation that happen either while a lawsuit is pending or following a court order. Additionally, more courts are beginning to adopt the federal standard for evidence spoliation set in Zubulake v. UBS Warburg LLC.
The Zabulake standard requires the imposition of a litigation hold once the party “reasonably anticipates” that a lawsuit may arise from the incident.
The recent construction accident case of Schaefer v. Universal Scaffolding & Equip. LLC is an example of the type of remedy a plaintiff may have even when the evidence is destroyed. Plaintiff was a construction worker who was seriously injured when, as he alleges, a defective piece of scaffolding fell and hit him on the head. Continue reading