In Moore v. Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC, Case No. 14-01459 (W.D. Wash., June 24, 2016), plaintiff Marla Moore brought a Motion for Sanctions for Defendant Lowe’s Home Centers’ willful spoliation of evidence. In short, Plaintiff claimed she was the target of verbal harassment, a hostile work environment, and was demoted as a result of her pregnancy. The Plaintiff was ultimately terminated for violation of the Defendant’s photo copying policy.
Plaintiff’s sanctions motion stemmed from Defendant’s deletion of Plaintiff’s email account following her termination. Defendant received a demand from Plaintiff’s attorney on April 25, 2013 to produce Plaintiff’s personnel file. However on March 30, 2013 Plaintiff’s email account was deleted due to “routine deletion” in accordance with Defendant’s policy for dealing with departing employees’ data. The policy directs preservation when it is “reasonably foreseeable that a matter is likely to result or does result in court action, arbitration or governmental or other investigation or proceeding…”
The court analyzed Defendant’s duty to preserve, whether the Defendant acted in bad faith, prejudice to the Plaintiff, and potential appropriate sanctions. The court determined that Defendant did not have a duty to preserve the deleted data. The court agreed with Defendant that the content of Plaintiff’s complaints to the Human Resources department were not sufficient to trigger the duty to preserve, and that notice of litigation and not “mere workplace complaints” were required. Based on this determination, the court found that there was no bad faith in the execution of the deletion effort, and also that Plaintiff suffered minimal prejudice that the Court would revisit if it became necessary to do so at trial.
Plaintiff’s Motion for Sanctions was thus denied.