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California Court Finds No Spoliation of Evidence
CALIFORNIA COURT FINDS NO SPOLIATION OF EVIDENCE
In Cleo Lueter v. State of California, No. C0322952 (Jan. 3, 2002), the Third Appellate District of California reviewed a finding of spoliation of evidence against the highway patrol. A tire tread came off after a multi vehicle accident. The highway patrol briefly retained some of the tire tread and later discarded it. The tanker truck's representative did not retain any of the other tread still left at the scene.
The representative stated he told the police to retain the tire tread. He kept other evidence such as the wheel rim and tire carcass but not some of the tread. One of the parties in the incident filed suit against the truck driver. The truck company filed a cross complaint against CHP claiming negligent spoliation of evidence. The trial court allowed the matter to proceed and eventually a jury found against CHP.
The Court of Appeals reversed that finding related to negligent spoliation of evidence. The court held there is no tort cause of action for spoliation of evidence. If the evidence still existed an action to retrieve the property could be filed. The court also examined whether conversion could be alleged. The court held the evidence established a remote possibility that the piece of tire might have been useable evidence. Conversion on the mere possibility of the tire tread was speculative allowing an award of $1.50 for value of the debris. The verdict of about $195,000 for spoliation was reversed as not permitted by law.
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