South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Plaintiff's Destruction of Evidence Does Not Mean Dismissal of Product Liability Suit
Description Appeals court held that when a plaintiff in a product liability case destroys the critical evidence in bad faith, while the trial court may dismiss the suit, it is not required to do so and may then limit testimony to the more limited evidence that is available.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Evidence; Spoilation; Prejudice; Bad Faith
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Campbell's Nissan Pathfinder rolled over in a one-car accident, which he claimed was due to tire tread separation. He sued Nissan for design defect, contending that it was prone to unreasonable risk of rollover, and he sued Firestone for strict liability for design defect and for defect in manufacturing. Nissan and Firestone attempted to inspect the tires. Campbell told them to contact his attorney, but it turned out that he had disposed of the tires. Campbell also claimed that a tire expert had studied the tires before they were destroyed, but he would not name the expert. The vehicle had also been destroyed. Defendants moved to dismiss the case, but the trial judge refused. Defendants appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. The destruction of the evidence is spoliation of the evidence and prejudices the position of the defendants. That prejudice cannot be cured. The evidence may find that the plaintiff acted in bad faith. However, dismissal is not required. The trial court could have dismissed the suit, but is not required to. Rather, the trial court will limit testimony to whatever direct evidence the plaintiff can produce.

Citation Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire v. Campbell, --- S.E. --- (2002 WL 31730438, Ct. App., Ga., 2002)

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