South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Failure of Plaintiff to Preserve Key Evidence Provides Grounds for Dismissal
Description Appeals court upheld summary judgment in favor of Ford where plaintiff contended his injuries were due to a defective airbag in his Ford. Plaintiff allowed the vehicle to be destroyed rather than be preserved for trial. That was grounds for the trial court to debar all evidence about the airbag and dismiss the suit.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Evidence; Preservation; Debarment
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Kambylis sued Ford, contending that the injuries he suffered were due to a defective air bag in his Ford vehicle, which struck another vehicle from behind. After the accident, the vehicle was towed away by the City of Chicago and, when not claimed by Kambylis, destroyed. Kambylis had an expert testify that the injuries he suffered were consistent with a defective airbag. Ford moved to debar the evidence and moved for summary judgment. The trial court held in Ford’s favor. Kambylis appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. While there is no general duty to preserve evidence, such a duty may arise through agreement or any other special circumstance in which a duty of care to preserve evidence exists if a reasonable person would have foreseen that the evidence was material to a potential civil action. Failure to preserve evidence in such circumstances will support sanctions, including debarment of evidence. Kambylis had a duty to preserve the vehicle since he knew there was going to be litigation and the evidence of the alleged defect was in the vehicle. Hence, Kambylis had no right of recovery against Ford based on the vehicle’s alleged defect. The trial court properly excluded the expert testimony since the vehicle could not be used as evidence.

Citation Kambylis v. Ford Motor Co., 788 N.E.2d 1 (App. Ct., Ill., 2002)

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