Evidence spoliation is when a party in a lawsuit intentionally tampers with, fabricates, withholds, or destroys evidence that is relevant to the lawsuit. You have probably seen TV shows about criminal cases in which evidence spoliation is a plot point. The movies Perfect Stranger starring Halle Berry and The Talented Mr. Ripley starring Matt Damon center around elaborate spoliation of evidence plots, even though no parts of those movies take place in a courtroom.
Not all evidence spoliation involves cold-blooded murders or vast conspiracy theories; it can also play a role in civil lawsuits. Bass-Davis v. Davis was a personal injury case in which spoliation of evidence was a factor.
Details of the Bass-Davis Case
The Bass Davis v. Davis lawsuit began the way you might imagine a personal injury lawsuit would. Kimberley Bass-Davis was shopping at a 7-Eleven store when she slipped and fell on a wet floor that had just been mopped. Her injuries resulting from the fall caused her to miss four months of work and required more than $200,000 in medical treatment.
Bass-Davis decided to file a lawsuit against the franchise owners of the 7-Eleven store where her accident took place, Kathi Davis and Christopher Davis. Kimberley alleged that there was no sign present in the store warning customers of the wet floor.
The logical way to find out whether there was, in fact, a sign, warning shoppers of the wet floor, would be to review the video surveillance tapes of the 7-Eleven store from the time of Kimberley’s accident. Throughout the discovery and litigation phases of the case, the franchise owners failed to produce such a videotape. The dispute eventually went all the way to the Nevada Supreme Court.
The Nevada Supreme Court’s Decision
The Nevada Supreme Court stated in its ruling that, when a party in a lawsuit fails to produce a piece of evidence that is known to exist or to have existed, one can reasonably presume that the evidence would weaken that party’s case rather than strengthen it. Therefore, the court was able to infer, based on the defendants’ refusal to submit the surveillance tape as evidence, that there was no sign in the store, which strengthens Kimberley Bass-Davis’ claim that the owners of the 7-Eleven were negligent in their duty to keep their store safe for customers.
The damaging nature of the suppressed evidence is a “rebuttable presumption.” This means that the court can assume that the evidence is damaging to the party that has suppressed it, but it is possible for that party to present a compelling argument, perhaps based on other evidence, that there is nothing suspect about the missing evidence.
Contact Brock Ohlson About Premises Liability Lawsuits
A premises liability lawsuit is a personal injury lawsuit against a business owner for operating a dangerous place of business. Contact Brock Ohlson, Nevada’s Personal Injury Lawyer, if you or a loved one were injured in an accident at a store, restaurant, or other place of business.