Archive: July 10, 2014

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Supreme Court of Texas Clarifies Standards Governing Spoliation, Limits Imposition of Spoliation Instructions and the Presentation of Evidence of Spoliation to the Jury

Supreme Court of Texas Clarifies Standards Governing Spoliation, Limits Imposition of Spoliation Instructions and the Presentation of Evidence of Spoliation to the Jury

Brookshire Bros., Ltd. v. Aldridge, –S.W.3d–, 2014 WL 2994435 (Tex. July 3, 2013)

In this case, the Supreme Court of Texas “enunciate[d] with greater clarity the standards governing whether an act of spoliation has occurred and the parameters of a trial court’s discretion to impose a remedy upon a finding of spoliation, including submission of a spoliation instruction to the jury” and held that such an instruction is only appropriate when the destruction of evidence was intentional or deprived the opposing party of “any meaningful ability to present a claim or defense.”  The court also concluded that “[s]poliation findings—and their related sanctions—are to be determined by the trial judge, outside the presence of the jury, in order to avoid unfairly prejudicing the jury by the presentation of evidence that is unrelated to the facts underlying the lawsuit” and that “[a]ccordingly, evidence bearing directly upon whether a party has spoliated evidence is not to be presented to the jury except insofar as it relates to the substance of the lawsuit.”  Applying the newly-articulated standards to the facts of the case before it, the court held that “imposition of the severe sanction of a spoliation instruction was an abuse of discretion” and that the trial court erred “in admitting evidence of the circumstances of the spoliating conduct.”  Accordingly, the judgment of the court of appeals was reversed, and the case was remanded for a new trial. Read More

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