Great Am. Ins. Co. of N.Y. v. Lowry Dev., LLC, 2007 WL 4268776 (S.D. Miss. Nov. 30, 2007)
This insurance coverage litigation stemmed from property damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Plaintiff Great American contended that there was a mutual mistake of fact in connection with the formation of the insurance contract, arguing that the parties, acting through their agents, understood that wind damage coverage was excluded. In this decision, the court ruled on plaintiff’s motion for sanctions for the destruction of a laptop computer by defendant’s insurance agent (Groves), who was also a defendant in the case.
During the summer of 2006, Groves disposed of a personal computer which may have contained information relevant to the issues in dispute. Although the specific contents of the computer’s hard drive were unknown, the court found that there was evidence in the record that Groves used the computer to prepare correspondence and emails related to the purchase of the policy at issue. Plaintiff argued that these computer records may have shed considerable light on the question whether Groves believed, at the time he negotiated the purchase of the policy, that the policy would provide coverage for wind damage. That disputed issue of fact was at the heart of the defense of mutual mistake Great American sought to establish.