I have always had an interest in spoliation of evidence. Spoliation is the negligent or intentional destruction or alteration of evidence or failing to preserve evidence for relevant to future, and sometimes even pending, litigation. This is not an issue we see often in car accident cases but we see it in truck accident and product liability cases and, to a lesser extent, in medical malpractice claims.
The Maryland Court of Appeals looked at this issue in Cumberland Insurance Group v. Delmarva Power. This case involved the treatment of spoliation of evidence when the physical object destroyed is itself the subject of the case. The context is a little boring. This is a battle between an insurance company and a utility company so, in my world, this is a bad guy on bad guy battle. The destruction here was also negligent, which is a lot less sexy than willful destruction.
Anyway, the claim centered on a house fire of a home insured by Cumberland Insurance Group. After the fire, two of Cumberland’s experts inspected the house, and the meter and meter box removed from the scene by the Fire Marshal. Based on its experts’ inspections, Cumberland believed the meter and meter box were the source of the fire and sought a subrogation claim against Delmarva Power, the electric company for the property. Cumberland received an estimate for the demolition of the property and issued a check to the homeowner that appeared to include the cost of demolition. Although Cumberland sent Delmarva notice that Cumberland intended to file a claim against Delmarva for subrogation, the notification did not include information regarding the schedule for demolition. Subsequently, Delmarva did not send any personnel to inspect the property before demolition occurred, less than sixty days after the fire.