In Chen v. District of Columbia, et al. [pdf], No. 08-0252 (D.D.C. Sept. 9, 2011), Judge Paul Friedman granted the plaintiff’s Motion for Spoliation Sanctions and recommended a permissive adverse inference instruction related to the defendant’s destruction of video surveillance tape after being notified of the tape and after having made a copy of the tape in response to the plaintiff’s request.

The plaintiff alleged that she was wrongfully accused of failing to pay her hotel bill and sought damages related to false arrest and the recovery of $60 taken from her by the police as payment of the hotel bill.  Her counsel sent a demand letter to the defendant and specifically requested preservation of video surveillance footage from the defendant’s security cameras.  The defendant failed to produce the video footage in discovery.

The court found that the defendant had notice of its duty to preserve the video footage and that the defendant’s general manager reviewed the footage showing plaintiff leaving the hotel several times before asking a maintenance engineer to copy the footage onto a disc.  The evidence showed that the engineer made two copies from the surveillance system but that one disc was erased and that the defendant had lost the other one.  The court recommended a rebuttable adverse inference instruction for the defendant’s negligent spoliation of evidence and awarded the plaintiff her attorneys’ fees and cost associated with bringing the motion.