Case Law

No Harm, No Foul: In Spoliation of Evidence Case, Court Unable to Apply Sanctions Without Prejudice

Illinois

Snider v. Danfoss, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 107591 (N.D. Ill. July 12, 2017) In this employment case, the plaintiff moved for sanctions under FRCP 37(e) in relation to the destruction of electronically stored information (ESI). The plaintiff argued that after sending the defendant a preservation letter, the defendant acted in bad faith by failing to preserve emails that were sent by the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s acting supervisor. The plaintiff sought the emails to show that the plaintiff’s job transfer was pretext and to display that the plaintiff was performing well and had no conflicts with other employees. In response, the defendant argued that there was a company policy where 90 days after an employee’s termination, all emails were deleted. Both the plaintiff and the acting supervisor left the defendant’s employment, and therefore, 90 days later pursuant to company policy, all emails were deleted. To determine sanctions, the court evaluated, under 37(e), whether the deleted emails were relevant and whether the plaintiff was prejudiced by the deletion of emails. The court found that the plaintiff was not prejudiced by the defendant’s failure to preserve the requested ESI. If the evidence sent or received by the plaintiff had been positive or negative it would not harm the plaintiff’s case because the requested emails would either hurt her case, or were produced by other means. Lastly, although there was a loss of the acting supervisor emails, the defendant was ordered to produce emails found from human resources to the plaintiff as evidence. Thus, the court denied the plaintiff’s motion for sanctions because of lack of prejudice.

Keywords: email, preservation, 90-day destruction policy, sanctions