Supreme Court Rules that Unintentional Spoliation of Evidence is Not a Cause of Action in Louisiana

An insurance company and an auto auction company will not face being sued for spoliation of evidence based upon their negligent failure to preserve a vehicle involved in an auto accident that injured the vehicle’s driver. The Louisiana Supreme Court recently ruled that the state’s law does not recognize a civil claim for negligent spoliation of evidence, although the companies’ failure may allow the injured driver to sue for breach of contract.

In March 2008, a multi-vehicle wreck left Richard Reynolds injured and his car totaled. Reynolds sued one of the other drivers, Robert Bordelon III, for negligence for his role in the accident. In addition to suing Bordelon, Reynolds also advanced claims against the manufacturer of his 2003 Infiniti G35, stemming from the car’s failure to deploy its airbags in the crash. Despite the driver’s alleged requests to the contrary, the auction company that took possession of the Infiniti on behalf of Reynolds’s insurer did not preserve the car, which meant that it was never inspected for defects.

This failure led Reynolds to add his insurance company and the auction company to his lawsuit. Those entities, according to Reynolds, committed spoliation of evidence, meaning that they destroyed, or allowed to be destroyed, material that was evidence in the case. The companies asked the trial court to throw out the case against them, arguing that Louisiana law requires the accuser to prove that they committed an intentional act of spoliation, and Reynolds had no proof that either company carried out any intentional act leading to the destruction of the vehicular evidence. The trial court agreed with the companies.

The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled on the case in June, addressing whether or not a person or entity can commit negligent spoliation of evidence. The court decided there is no such claim in Louisiana. The recognition by the law of any basis for a civil suit is grounded, at least in part, on the idea that making it actionable will deter future conduct. Forcing Bordelon, if he was found liable, to pay for Reynolds’ injuries might deter future drivers from driving negligently. Allowing parties to sue third parties for negligent spoliation of evidence would not deter future acts of unintentional destruction of evidence but would only “penalize a party who was not aware of its potential wrongdoing in the first place.”

The court did point out, however, that other options exist for a party whose case is undermined by someone else’s failure to preserve evidence. While ruling that Reynolds could not sue for negligent spoliation of evidence, the court concluded that the accusations he made did amount to a potentially valid breach of contract claim.

The ruling in Reynolds’ case serves as a clear illustration of the many tasks that can go into succeeding in an auto accident case. If you’ve been injured in a vehicle crash caused by the negligence of another person, your vehicle may be one of the most important pieces of evidence you have to help you prove your case. Preserving that evidence could be the difference between recovering for your injuries or defeat. For wise advice and aggressive representation regarding this and other aspects of your personal injury case, talk to the Louisiana car accident attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm. Our attorneys can help you pursue your case and obtain the recovery you deserve for your injuries.

For your confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.

More Blog Posts:

Louisiana Jury Entitled to Rule Against Injured Driver Despite Multiple Doctors’ Testimony at Trial, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Aug. 28, 2015

Proving Causation in Your Louisiana Auto Accident Injury Case, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, May 11, 2015

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