Brief Fact Summary. Mark Silvestri filed a products liability action against General Motors Corporation, alleging enhanced injuries due to the airbag not deploying in his 1995 Chevrolet Monte Carlo when he hit a utility pole. The court dismissed the action for the spoliation of evidence.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The court has discretion to dismiss an action for the spoliation of a key piece of evidence, particularly when such conduct of the spoliator may have been either deliberate or negligent and becomes “highly prejudiced” to the defendant.
Issue. Whether the district court abused their discretion upon dismissing this case upon reaching a finding that in the peculiar circumstances of this case the spoliation of evidence warranted dismissal.
Held. The judgment of the district court is affirmed. The district court’s finding that in the peculiar circumstances of this case, the court’s order dismissing this case, although severe, was not an abuse of discretion.
Discussion. Spoliation refers to the destruction or material alteration of evidence or the failure to preserve property for another’s use as evidence in pending or reasonably foreseeable litigation. Here the prejudice suffered by General Motors was “highly prejudicial” because it denied General Motors access to the only evidence from which it could develop its defenses adequately.