No Cause of Action in Louisiana for Negligent Spoliation of Evidence

The Louisiana Supreme Court recently ruled that no cause of action exists for negligent spoliation of evidence. The lawsuit involved a multi-vehicle accident in which the plaintiff asserted, among other things, a products liability cause of action against the car manufacturer. The plaintiff’s automobile carrier and the custodian of the vehicle post-accident, however, failed to preserve the vehicle for inspection and plaintiff was unable to determine whether any defects existed. As a result of this missing evidence, plaintiff filed a negligent spoliation of evidence claim against the automobile insurer and custodian. The automobile insurer and the custodian both filed Exceptions of No Cause of Action, or alternatively Motions for Summary Judgment. The trial court sustained the exceptions and denied the summary judgment as moot. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment, finding that no cause of action existed for negligent spoliation of the evidence. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to definitively rule on the issue of negligent spoliation of evidence.

The Court considered various public policy issues and ultimately concluded that “the benefits of recognizing a tort cause of action, in order to deter third party spoliation of evidence and compensate victims of such misconduct are outweighed by the burden to litigants, witnesses, and the judicial system that would be imposed by potentially endless litigation over a speculative loss, and by the cost to society of promoting onerous record and evidence retention policies.” The Court noted that while there was no tort cause of action for negligent spoliation of evidence, alternate avenues of recourse were available in the evidentiary, discovery and contract laws of Louisiana.

Reynolds v. Bordelon

Simone H. Yoder