Superior Production Partnership, d/b/a PBSI v. Gordon Auto Body Parts Co., 2009 WL 690603 (S.D.Ohio 3/12/09) (lack of evidence of claimed failure to implement a litigation hold leads to denial of plaintiff's motion for sanctions.)
The court in this matter was constrained by the lack of evidence submitted in support of plaintiff's motion seeking spoliation sanctions. The case had been pending since 2006 and a substantial amount of discovery had taken place including several conferences with the court and a motion to compel. Despite this history, plaintiff was only making a motion relating to the failure to implement a litigation hold now, rather than closer to the initiation of the lawsuit. The length of time also cut against the plaintiff due to the lack of evidence of a failure to implement a litigation hold or spoliation, given the amount of discovery that had taken place in the case.
The court viewed the dispute as "not a legal one, but a factual one. Both parties agree that the filing of a lawsuit triggers an obligation on the part of the defendants to locate and preserve relevant documents, and that the breach of that obligation may well be sanctionable."
Plaintiff claimed that defendant failed to implement a litigation hold. In response defendant claimed that its standard document retention policy existed prior to the lawsuit and that the policy prevented the destruction of relevant documents. Nevertheless, after the first deposition in the lawsuit and to bolster the policy a litigation hold memorandum was issued to employees advising them to retain relevant documents.
The motion involved largely unsupported accusations of spoliation and failure to implement a legal hold. Specifically, there was no evidence before the court supporting a failure to follow a retention policy or implement a litigation hold. Without citation, the court noted that "the topic of document retention or destruction is a valid subject of discovery, and should [plaintiff] either possess additional evidence on that topic or, as a result of additional discovery, come into the possession of such evidence, it is free to renew its motion." The court went on to hold that "[i]n the absence of additional evidence, however, the Court is constrained to deny the motion as filed."
Plaintiff's motion for sanctions was denied. For a copy of the opinion click here: http://legalholds.typepad.com/legalholds/new-cases.html.