Yesterday, Judge Sweet granted in part a motion for sanctions against the City of New York and the NYPD for spoliation of evidence in a class action over the NYPD’s alleged quotas for issuing summonses even when the officers lacked probable cause. Judge Sweet found that the City failed to implement and maintain a litigation hold which, when combined with the NYPD’s robust document destruction policies already in place, led to the destruction of key evidence. The lack of document preservation led to little or no documents being produced for key custodians, including no emails from former Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
While Judge Sweet did not find that the City and the NYPD had acted in bad faith, he did find that they acted with gross negligence in failing to create and maintain a litigation hold:
The failure to circulate a litigation hold, and to ensure that it was properly implemented, was particularly damaging in the context of the NYPD’s standing document retention policies, which ensured that inaction on the part of the City would result in the destruction of evidence . . . . The NYPD cannot credibly argue that, despite setting guidelines for document destruction and providing an industrial shredding truck for that purpose, it did not know or intend that documents would be destroyed.
Judge Sweet granted a permissive inference in response, and will instruct the jury that “the absence of documentary evidence does not in this case establish the absence of a summons quota policy.”