Litigants in New Mexico negligence lawsuits risk losing or damaging their cases if they engage in spoliation, which is the intentional destruction, mutilation, alteration or concealment of evidence. Whether and to what extent to sanction a litigant for spoliation is up to the trial court. In a recent ruling by the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, the court concluded that dismissal of the plaintiff’s case for spoliation and imposition of other sanctions sought by the defendant were not warranted.
The ruling was made in the context of a lawsuit brought by a company that repaired its concrete pumping truck following an accident on Interstate 40, allegedly caused by the driver of a tractor-trailer. The plaintiff alleged that the driver of the tractor-trailer that struck the plaintiff’s concrete pumping truck was distracted at the time of the accident by looking in his vehicle’s rear-view mirror. The plaintiff sought damages in the amount of $26,000 to reimburse it for repairs and also sought to recover lost profits in the amount of $58,000 for the time during which the truck was out of service.
The defendant moved to dismiss the case on the basis that the plaintiff had engaged in spoliation by beginning repairs on the truck on the day after the accident. The defendant argued that this resulted in allegedly critical evidence relating to liability and damages ceasing to exist. Alternatively, the defendant asked for the imposition of a sanction less severe than dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.