Case Law

Court Schools Parties on Duty to Preserve and Finds No Act of Spoliation

Pennsylvania

Archer v. York City Sch. Dist., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 178969 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 28, 2016) In a suit filed by parents seeking to reverse the school district’s decision to close the plaintiffs’ charter school, the plaintiffs alleged spoliation, arguing that the defendants deleted the email account of its former assistant superintendent within ninety days of her retirement. In evaluating spoliation, the Third Circuit employs the following four-factor test: “(1) the evidence was in the party's control; (2) the evidence is relevant to the claims or defenses in the case; (3) there has been actual suppression or withholding of evidence; and (4) the duty to preserve the evidence was reasonably foreseeable to the party." The parties stipulated to the first two factors; however, the defendants argued it was standard business practice to delete former employees’ email accounts; that at the time the emails were deleted there was no litigation pending against the defendants and therefore no duty to preserve; and that the defendants were not trying to suppress evidence. The court ruled in favor of the defendants on the basis of foreseeability and intentionality, pointing out that the plaintiffs did not commence litigation until over a year after the emails were deleted, and the defendants could not have foreseen a lawsuit by "the simple act of doing their jobs."

Keywords: duty to preserve, reasonably foreseeable, relevance, suppress evidence