Sharon Nelson and her Ride the Lightening blog reports on a recent blog post discussing Gillett v. Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Ct. App., No. 286076 (Dec. 22, 2009). The case was initially discovered by Sharon at Jason Shinn's "Defending the Digital Workplace" blog. The case and the original blog post are available by clicking on the links above.
The short answer here is a reminder that plaintiffs have the same obligation to implement a legal hold and preserve evidence as defendants. We keep a list of such cases and they all follow the same pattern. Plaintiff resists production of ESI. Court orders production. Plaintiff destroys laptop, hard drive or simply turns over his computer with many files conspicuously absent. Computer forensics are run on plaintiff's computer and viola, system metadata reveals the use of evidence wiping software, a defrag or two and usually some evidence that hundreds if not thousands of files were deleted on or about the time that the court issues an order permitting the inspection of plaintiff's computer. The excuses vary for the loss of data, but generally amount to feigned ignorance over some computer problem. There is nothing fake, however, about the ability of computer forensics to trace what was done to the hard drive. The intentional deletion of data is brought to the court's attention and often plaintiff's case is dismissed.
To read Sharon's take on the dismissal of this plaintiff's case for spoliation, click here.