South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Substantial Evidence, Not All Possible Evidence, Needed for Suit to Proceed
Description Appeals court held that while some evidence relevant to a suit, which could affect the final outcome, may have been destroyed, sufficient evidence was presented to allow the plaintiffs' claims to proceed. Consequently, the suit should not be dismissed.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Evidence; Spoliation
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts After his new mobile home was destroyed in a fire, Reed and his insurance company sued the maker and seller of the home for negligence and breach of warranty. Reed contended that there were electrical problems that he had reported to the defendants, but that the complaints were ignored. Defendants moved for summary judgment on the basis of spoliation of the evidence because plaintiffs failed to preserve the remnants of the mobile home for examination. Plaintiffs had only kept some of the wiring as evidence. The trial court dismissed the suit; Reed appealed.
Decision

Reversed. Spoliation of evidence did not require dismissal of the suit. Plaintiffs should have been allowed to proceed to trial solely on the theory that the wiring that had been kept as evidence was defective and that it caused the fire. When a party contends that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the other party to present substantial evidence that the issue exists. Evidence is substantial if it is of "such weight and quality that fair-minded persons in the exercise of impartial judgment can reasonably infer the existence of the fact sought to be proved." The wiring evidence that was retained meets this standard, so the suit may proceed.

Citation Copenhagen Reinsurance Co. v. Champion Home Builders Co., --- So.2d --- (2003 WL 21850441, Ct. App., Ala., 2003)

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