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Spoliation of Evidence Sanctions in New Hampshire Personal Injury Lawsuits

October 14, 2019

The result of a New Hampshire personal injury lawsuit hinges on the evidence a plaintiff presents. A plaintiff’s evidence must demonstrate that the negligent or willful behavior of the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries and damages. Evidence establishing negligence or willful conduct is obligatory in any personal injury lawsuit. It not only proves negligence, but it is used when determining the extent of damages. Protecting evidence is a vital legal requirement that both parties must follow.

When a party in a New Hampshire personal injury lawsuit negligently or intentionally fails to preserve evidence, they may face court fines and other sanctions based on the concept of spoliation. Certain states recognize a specific tort for spoliation, however, many others, including New Hampshire, remedy spoliation by sanctions or adverse jury instructions. Spoliation occurs when one party destroys, damages, fabricates, changes, or loses crucial and relevant evidence. Specifically, New Hampshire courts define spoliation as the “intentional, negligent, or malicious destruction of relevant evidence.” Some common examples of spoliation are behaviors such as; destroying security footage that recorded an accident, tampering with complaint reports that show a prior history of similar incidents, and forging safety compliance documents.

Although New Hampshire courts have yet to determine whether spoliation should be its own tort, they do impose sanctions on the violating party. In instances where a party is adversely impacted by spoliation, that impacted party may request a jury instruction that addresses the spoliation. The jury may be instructed that they can draw adverse inferences towards the offending party and the evidence that they destroyed. This instruction is only appropriate when the evidence was destroyed on purpose with fraudulent intent.

New Hampshire courts have not established what a party must show to support a spoliation claim, except in cases when the destruction is not a matter of routine. In cases where the destruction is clearly intentional, the jury may surmise that it would favor the other party. In some instances, the New Hampshire courts will allow adverse inferences even if the destruction occurred before the claim. Moreover, the party moving for spoliation does not need to show bad faith, but they must show at least carelessness and prejudice. Generally, New Hampshire courts will evaluate the bias towards the non-offending party and the culpable party’s degree of fault, when determining whether a sanction is appropriate. New Hampshire accident victims should make sure to promptly contact an attorney if they believe that someone is tampering with evidence that may be relevant to their claim.

Have You Suffered Injuries in a New Hampshire Accident?

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a New Hampshire accident, you should contact the experienced attorneys at Peter Thompson & Associates. The attorneys at our law firm understand the importance of gathering and preserving evidence. They can assist you in building your case and getting the compensation that you deserve. Compensation may include payments for lost benefits and wages, pain and suffering, and medical expenses. Our personal injury attorneys handle New Hampshire car accident cases, slip and fall claims, as well as other types of personal injury cases. Contact the law firm today at 800-804-2004 to schedule a free initial consultation.