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Spoliation of Evidence in a Business Dispute

When a business dispute arises, upset partners often delete emails, doctor the books, and shred documents. At other times, important information is lost due to incompetence so egregious it can be considered negligent. When these things happen, it can lead to legal claims for spoliation of evidence. 

At Vaziri Law LLC, we work with Chicago area business owners to ensure the evidence they need to prove their case is secured. We also advise clients on actions they should take to make sure they are not sanctioned for spoliation of evidence. 

What is Spoliation of Evidence? 

Spoliation is the intentional or negligent loss, alteration, damage, or destruction of evidence that may prove important during a civil lawsuit. The courts punish spoliation because it can give the spoiling party an unfair advantage and prevent justice from being served. 

Unlike other states, Illinois does not have statutory law against spoliation of evidence, but our courts have said that it is a form of negligence. In order to bring a claim of spoliation, you must be able to prove:

  • The defendant had a duty to preserve certain evidence;
  • The defendant breached that duty;
  • The breach proximately injured the plaintiff; and 
  • There are actual damages stemming from the injury caused by the breach.

How this plays out on a case-by-case basis is not as easy to predict as you might expect. Whether spoliation occurred depends on the specific facts in an individual case, which is why it is important to discuss your situation with an experienced attorney familiar with Illinois business litigation

What Happens if There is Spoliation of Evidence? 

If spoliation has occurred, the non-spoiling party can bring a lawsuit against the negligent party. Though a spoliation claim can be its own lawsuit, it is more likely to be included as a count in an underlying lawsuit where evidence was lost or destroyed. 

If a spoliation claim is successful, the judge in the case might sanction the spoiling party by:

  • Entering default judgment in favor of the non-spoiling party;
  • Dismissing certain claims the spoiling party has made;
  • Finding the spoiling party in contempt of court; or 
  • Imposing fines. 

What the judge decides to do often depends on how serious the spoliation is, whether it was intentional or accidental, and how much the spoliation impacts other legal claims. 

Avoiding Spoliation of Evidence 

Vaziri Law LLC assists Chicago area business owners who are in a dispute where spoliation is an issue, but we also advise clients on how to proactively avoid spoliation. 

  • We advise local businesses on document retention and security. 
  • We help clients figure out what evidence needs to be preserved in anticipation of litigation when disputes arise. 
  • We work with clients to ensure they are fully responding to discovery requests so there is no reason for a spoliation claim to delay resolution of their disputes. 

Fueled by Passion. Built on Trust. 

Vaziri Law LLC is a full-service business litigation firm in the heart of Chicago. If you are involved in a business dispute, you can trust us to guide you through it while also protecting your interests should spoliation of evidence become an issue as well. Please contact us today to schedule a meeting.