Case Law

Court Swiftly Denies Pop Star Defendant’s Motion for Adverse Inference, but Allows Defendant to Cross-Examine Plaintiff About Spoliation in Front of Jury

Colorado

Mueller v. Swift, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112276 (D. Colo. July 19, 2017) In this intentional interference with contract and business relations suit, David Mueller, a radio DJ for station KYGO in Denver, Colorado, claimed pop star Taylor Swift made false accusations of sexual misconduct by him, alleging he inappropriately touched her while posing for a photo during a meet and greet. At the time of Mueller’s termination, he recorded calls between himself, his boss and a KYGO vice president, which Swift later requested in discovery. When Mueller gave the files to his attorney, they were edited. Mueller claimed the original recordings were over two hours long, and he edited everything that was not important. Furthermore, Mueller said the original file with the full-length recordings was unavailable because coffee spilled on a laptop as well as the loss of an external hard drive. Therefore, only the edited recordings were available for Swift’s review. Due to the missing portions of the recordings, Swift requested the court draw an adverse inference against Mueller stating that the missing information was favorable to her. The court responded, under Tenth Circuit precedent, that such an inference is only warranted if there is sufficient proof the evidence was lost or deleted in bad faith and that the court was unable “…to draw conclusions about disputed facts bearing on the merits of an action as the result of spilled coffee.” In conclusion, Swift’s request for an adverse inference was denied; however, the judge noted that bad faith is not viewed as a binary issue. Although the court was incapable of establishing intent from the disputed facts, the court took a “dim” view of the plaintiff’s acts and permitted the defendants to cross-examine the plaintiff about the record of spoliation of evidence in front of the jury.

Keywords: audio recordings, destruction of evidence, spoliation, bad faith, adverse inference