Legislative Update: House and Senate pass bill on spoliation of evidence.

March 1st, 2019
By: admin

The summary of bill as passed:

Spoliation of evidence. Establishes that a party or potential litigant has a duty to preserve evidence that may be relevant to reasonably foreseeable litigation. The bill further provides that a court (i) upon finding prejudice to another party from loss, disposal, alteration, concealment, or destruction of such evidence, may order measures no greater than necessary to cure the prejudice, or (ii) only upon finding that the party acted recklessly or with the intent to deprive another party of the evidence’s use in the litigation, may (a) presume that the evidence was unfavorable to the party, (b) instruct the jury that it may or shall presume that the evidence was unfavorable to the party, or (c) dismiss the action or enter a default judgment. The bill further provides that no independent cause of action for negligent or intentional spoliation of evidence is created.

This bill essentially tracks the federal rule; however, there is differing language which includes imposition of sanctions upon a finding that the party acted “recklessly.” If approved by the Governor the Code of Virginia will be amended by adding the following statute:

§ 8.01-379.2:1. Spoliation of evidence.

A. A party or potential litigant has a duty to preserve evidence that may be relevant to reasonably foreseeable litigation. In determining whether and at what point such a duty to preserve arose, the court shall include in its consideration the totality of the circumstances including the extent to which the party or potential litigant was on notice that specific and identifiable litigation was likely and that the evidence would be relevant.

B. If evidence that should have been preserved in the anticipation or conduct of litigation is lost because a party failed to take reasonable steps to preserve it, or is otherwise disposed of, altered, concealed, destroyed, or not preserved, and it cannot be restored or replaced through additional discovery, the court (i) upon finding prejudice to another party from such loss, disposal, alteration, concealment, or destruction of the evidence, may order measures no greater than necessary to cure the prejudice or (ii) only upon finding that the party acted recklessly or with the intent to deprive another party of the evidence’s use in the litigation, may (a) presume that the evidence was unfavorable to the party, (b) instruct the jury that it may or shall presume that the evidence was unfavorable to the party, or (c) dismiss the action or enter a default judgment.

C. Nothing in the section shall be interpreted as creating an independent cause of action for negligent or intentional spoliation of evidence.

Disclaimer

This blog and the information provided has been prepared by Bancroft, McGavin, Horvath & Judkins, P.C. (“BMHJ”) for information purposes only and is not intended nor to be construed as legal advice. This blog may contain the opinions of the members and associates of this firm on various legal issues and is not legal advice. Read More