Could you hear me laughing from down the hall?
The plaintiff in an employment case, when ordered to turn over his computers for inspection, destroyed all evidence.
He protested that the evidence was “irrelevant,” but the judge wouldn’t buy that.
Among the more interesting aspects:
- The plaintiff first wiped the hard drive of his failing desktop, took a sledgehammer to the hard drive and to the computer, and then threw them both in the landfill.
- The plaintiff also installed the programs Evidence Eliminator and CCleaner and removed all evidence from his laptop.
- All of this happened after he retained counsel, who told him he must preserve all emails and other documents.
- The plaintiff’s wiping of data from the laptop occurred a few days after the magistrate ordered him to submit it for inspection within seven days.
- In an email, the plaintiff told counsel that if the court ordered him to turn over the laptop, he would copy the data to a CD and wipe the hard drive. According to the findings of fact, “At the conclusion of the e-mail he jokes that ‘an electrical surge just fried my computer and a 50 pound anvil fell over and landed on it’ and asks ‘what penalties [he would] suffer from a contempt of court citation.’ “
I was laughing out loud as I read this, but neither the magistrate nor the district judge was amused. The plaintiff’s case was thrown out, and he was ordered to pay the defendant’s costs and attorneys’ fees.
The case is Taylor v. The Mitre Corp., No. 1:11-cv-1247, 2012 WL 5473573 (E.D. Va. Nov. 8, 2012) adopting recommendations of Taylor v. Mitre Corp., No. 1:11-cv-01247 (LO/IDD), 2012 WL 5473715 (E.D. Va. Sept. 10, 2012)
Thanks to K&L Gates for calling attention to this case on its Electronic Discovery Law blog.