Disposal of Bicycle Involved in Accident Did Not Give Rise to Spoliation Sanctions

Recently an appellate court affirmed a trial court’s denial of a defendant’s motion for spoliation sanctions in a bicycle-related personal injury action.

Here are the facts in Carlos v. Castillo, decided February 27, 2014:

On January 26, 2009, plaintiff commenced this action seeking damages for injuries sustained on September 5, 2008, when, while riding a bicycle, he was struck when the door of defendants’ double-parked truck opened as he was riding by it. On July 6, 2010, plaintiff testified that the bicycle was being stored at a friend’s house. On February 6, 2012, defendants, for the first time, sought an opportunity to inspect the bicycle. However, the bicycle was no longer available because, according to plaintiff, his friend had disposed of the bicycle.

Defendants filed a motion under CPLR 3126 for spoliation sanctions, which the trial court correctly denied. Here:

Defendants failed to show that the bicycle was disposed of in bad faith or that they were thereby prejudiced in the ability to defend the action. Defendants cite no testimony or provide any evidence to support their contention that the bicycle, by virtue of its involvement in the accident, constituted key evidence. While the destruction of evidence may diminish a party’s ability to prove the relevancy of, and need for, the destroyed evidence, that is not the case here since¬†there is no suggestion that the condition of the bicycle caused or contributed to the accident. Furthermore, defendants’ claim as to the importance of the bicycle is undercut by their unexplained delay in seeking its production.

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