The success of a Texas personal injury lawsuit relies heavily on the evidence that the parties present. A plaintiff that fails to present evidence establishing the defendant’s negligence is unlikely to receive damages for their injuries. In some instances, plaintiffs are unable to present compelling and relevant proof because the evidence is unavailable. When dealing with potentially relevant evidence, both parties have a duty to ensure that such evidence is preserved and available for trial.
Spoliation occurs when a party fails to preserve or destroys relevant evidence. Trial courts must remedy such conduct because spoliation deprives the fact finder of critical evidence. Some common behaviors that may lead to spoliation are when the offending party destroys video footage, forges or alters safety documents, or tampers with witness statements.
Although Texas does not identify a specific tort for spoliation, the offending party may face other sanctions, including a spoliation jury instruction. In Texas, a judge may give the jury an instruction to make an adverse inference against the offending party. Courts have recognized that a spoliation instruction may unfairly impact a jury’s verdict. In response, the Supreme Court of Texas clarified how to address claims of spoliation and impose remedies.