Defendant’s Gross Negligence Leads to Adverse Inference Instruction

New York

Riley v. Marriott Int’l, 2014 WL 4794657 (W.D. N.Y. Sept. 25, 2014). In this personal injury case, the plaintiffs sought video surveillance and “sweep logs” after one of the plaintiffs slipped and fell in the defendant’s hotel garage. The defendant’s loss prevention manager testified that the area in question was continuously monitored and that the recordings were maintained for thirty days before they were overwritten. According to the loss prevention manager, once he is notified of a potential claim against the defendant, he is responsible for preserving information related to the incident. Both the video surveillance and sweep logs were destroyed, and the plaintiffs filed a motion for sanctions arguing that the defendant had a duty to preserve. The court found that the defendant failed to explain any reason for its loss of the relevant data and that the defendant could not provide any facts concerning the circumstances under which the video was destroyed. The court held that the defendant had a clear duty to preserve and that “[t]he failure to provide the Court with any sworn facts from persons with knowledge of the destruction of the challenged evidence demonstrates such a lack of diligence that it suggests bad faith destruction.” Thus, the court found the defendant’s failure to preserve constituted gross negligence. The court found that dismissal of the lawsuit was “too drastic a remedy under the circumstances” and issued sanctions against the defendant in the form of an adverse inference instruction.

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