Have you ever considered whether Louisiana law allows you to sue someone who destroys evidence relating to your case? This is called “spoliation.” While evidence may be destroyed intentionally, in some cases it is even done negligently (accidentally), with no intent to impact a lawsuit.
Our highest court, the Louisiana Supreme Court, recently had the opportunity to address this issue. Specifically, it considered whether, and under what circumstances, a lawsuit may be brought when evidence is destroyed negligently.
In the case before the court, the injured party was hurt in a multi-vehicle accident in St. Tammany Parish. His insurance company paid him under his policy and took the title to his car, which an auction company later sold for parts to a salvage yard.
The injured driver brought a lawsuit against another driver he believed to be at fault, as well as the manufacturer of his car—Nissan, and others. Part of his complaint was that his insurance company and the auction company did not preserve his car and that he therefore could not determine whether there were any defects in the airbag system, to support his lawsuit against Nissan.
The court held that Louisiana did not recognize the tort of “negligent spoliation.” For that reason, the injured driver could not base his lawsuit on the theory that the insurance company or auction company was unreasonable when they disposed of his car.
However, the court noted that an injured party whose relevant evidence was negligently destroyed would likely have other avenues to recover for the harm done:
- Sanctions and evidentiary presumptions were available against other parties in the litigation who negligently destroyed evidence;
- An injured party could contract with a third party, such as the auction company, to preserve evidence;
- An injured party could obtain a court order to require the preservation of evidence; and
- In some circumstances, an injured party could take possession of the evidence to preserve it himself.
Finding that the injured party’s allegations might support a case for breach of contract relating to the evidence, the court sent the case back to the trial court (known as a remand) to consider a contract claim.
The legal theories in accident cases can be complex and warrant evaluation by an experienced personal injury attorney. If you or a loved one have been injured as the result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. We understand the laws applicable to car accidents, and we will help guide you to a favorable resolution of your case. For a free case evaluation, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Wright Pichon & Gray.