eDiscovery Daily Blog

Court Denies Plaintiff’s Motion for Sanction for Spoliation of Audio Recording: eDiscovery Case Law

In Montoya v. Loya Ins., No. 18-590 SCY/JFR (D.N.M. Oct. 24, 2019), New Mexico Magistrate Judge Steven C. Yarbrough denied the plaintiff’s Motion For Sanctions For Spoliation Of Audio Recording Evidence, after a jury trial in favor of the plaintiff, finding that there was minimal prejudice to the plaintiff and that “there is no dispute over the relevant contents of the telephone conversation” which was recorded.

Case Background

In this case involving a bad faith claim against the plaintiff’s insurance company for its handling of her claim under her uninsured motorist benefits, the defendant took a recorded statement from the plaintiff in the course of its investigation but lost it.  The plaintiff was forced to file suit against the defendant in state court in February 2017 and the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff against the defendant in January 2018 in the amount of $23,742.82.  Despite that, the plaintiff sought a finding of liability against the defendant as a sanction for its failure to preserve the recorded statement the defendant took from the plaintiff during its investigation of her claim.

Judge’s Ruling

Considering the plaintiff’s claim, Judge Yarbrough stated: “The Court agrees that the loss of the recording caused Plaintiff some prejudice, as it prevented her from obtaining a full transcript of the conversation rather the parts that Ms. Boneo chose to record in her notes. This prejudice, however, is minimal.”

Continuing, Judge Yarbrough provided three reasons for this, as follows:

“First, Plaintiff herself was part of the conversation. Thus, the loss of the recording did not deny her access to the conversation. Plaintiff therefore retains the ability to testify about conversation despite the loss of the recording…Second, Plaintiff was able to depose the adjustor and thereby obtain the adjuster’s testimony about the conversation. Because Plaintiff has independent personal knowledge of this conversation that she was part of and because Plaintiff obtained the adjuster’s notes and testimony about the conversation, Plaintiff has the means to adequately prepare for trial… Third, and most importantly, there is no dispute over the relevant contents of the telephone conversation. Plaintiff testified in her deposition that she agreed with the substance of Ms. Boneo’s testimony regarding the contents of Plaintiff’s statement.”

As a result, Judge Yarbrough stated: “Any prejudice Plaintiff might suffer from not having a recording of the statement is slight and does not justify the only relief Plaintiff requests: a finding of liability against Defendant. Plaintiff’s Motion For Sanctions For Spoliation Of Audio Recording Evidence (Doc. 75) is therefore DENIED.”

So, what do you think?  Should the judge have penalized the defendant for losing the recording?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

It’s our last post of the year, so I want to thank all of you for reading our blog all year, attending our webcasts and for all of the support!  Can’t believe we are in the midst of our tenth year and your support has made it possible to keep producing blog posts daily.  In this holiday season, I’m very thankful for your support and also thankful for the love of my wife, Paige, and our kids, Kiley and Carter.  Happy holidays and see you in 2020!


Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

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