The Superior Court has barred a defendant in a motor vehicle accident case from presenting the testimony of its accident reconstruction expert because of the defendant’s spoliation of evidence. If the sanction is upheld on appeal it will be the first time a Rhode Island state court has been upheld in a spoliation sanction more severe than an “adverse inference” jury instruction.
The case concerned a fatal accident involving a school bus that crashed into a truck owned by. Plaintiffs and the bus owner sought sanctions against the truck owner based on failure to preserve three kinds of evidence: emails created immediately after the accident, documents concerning the accident that a bankruptcy court had ordered the trucking company to preserve and data from a GPS-type device in the truck.
Presiding Justice Gibney found the trucking company was a large and sophisticated trucking company with experience dealing with litigation including personal injury claim resulting from accidents involving its trucks. Accordingly, it had a duty to preserve relevant evidence. The court found that the trucking company acted in bad faith in despoiling the evidence and that only a severe sanction would discourage such actions. The court barred defendant from presenting testimony or other evidence from an accident reconstruction expert. Berrios v. Jevic Transportation, P.C. 04-2390 (R.I. Super. Jan. 18, 2013). /Practice-Areas/Product-Liability-Defense.shtml