Tennessee Supreme Court Modifies Spoliation of Evidence Doctrine By Removing Intentional Misconduct Requirement
Tennessee has long had a doctrine of spoliation of evidence which allows the trial court to draw negative inferences or even provide dismissal against a party who destroys evidence. Historically, Tennessee courts have required the presence of actual intentional misconduct to invoke the doctrine of spoliation of evidence particularly when providing the remedy of a negative inference or dismissal. The Tennessee Supreme Court in Lea Ann Tatham v. Bridgestone Americas Holding, Inc., No. W2013-02604-SC-R11-CV, 2015 WL 6688035 (Tenn. 2015) dealt with an apparent conflict between the case law and Rule 34A.02 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure that was adopted on July 1, 2006. The full text of Rule 34A.02 provides as follows:
Rule 37 sanctions may be imposed upon a party or an agent of a party who discards, destroys, mutilates, alters, or conceals evidence.
The question before the Tennessee Supreme Court in Lea Ann Tatham was whether Tennessee Courts should continue to require an intentional misconduct prerequisite for a trial court to impose sanctions for spoliation of evidence. The Tennessee Supreme Court decided this issue and expressed the desire to provide a uniform standard on this issue.
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