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Louisiana Supreme Court Rules that there is No Cause of Action Under Louisiana Law for Negligent Spoliation of Evidence

On June 30, 2015 the Louisiana Supreme Court resolved a long-outstanding issue of Louisiana law by ruling that public policy in Louisiana precludes recognition of a duty to preserve evidence for another person, and therefore there is no tort cause of action for negligent spoliation of evidence under Louisiana law.  In Reynolds v. Bordelon, et al., 2014-C-2362 (La. 6/30/2015), the Court found that a tort-based cause of action for the loss or destruction of evidence is overly speculative, unworkable and would impose costs on the judicial system and society as a whole that would outweigh any benefits from recognizing the cause of action. 

Plaintiff Richard Reynolds and defendant Robert Bordelon, III were involved in a multi-vehicle accident.  The plaintiff sustained injuries and filed suit against Mr. Bordelon.  The plaintiff also asserted claims against Nissan North America, the manufacturer of his vehicle, pursuant to the Louisiana Products Liability Act due to failure of the airbag to deploy.  Additionally, the plaintiff alleged that his own insurer, Automobile Club Inter-Insurance Exchange ("ACIIE"), and Insurance Auto Auctions Corporation ("IAA"), failed to preserve his vehicle for use as evidence in the claim against Nissan.

Stone Pigman represented IAA, which auctions total loss vehicles on behalf of insurance companies like ACIIE.  Stone Pigman secured a dismissal of Reynolds's claim against IAA in the district court on the legal theory that Louisiana does not recognize a cause of action for negligent spoliation of evidence by a third party.  On appeal, the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the district court's decision dismissing Reynolds's case against IAA.  The Louisiana Supreme Court granted writs to determine whether Louisiana recognizes the tort of negligent spoliation.  Stone Pigman argued that recognition of an independent tort cause of action based on spoliation of evidence would be inconsistent with the historical evolution of Louisiana jurisprudence and undesirable for a number of public policy reasons.  The Supreme Court agreed that public policy precludes the existence of a tort cause of action for negligent spoliation.

This ruling definitively resolved a highly disputed question of Louisiana law.  Previously, the various appellate circuits in the State disagreed on the existence and parameters of a cause of action for negligent spoliation of evidence.  Often, different panels from within the same circuit issued conflicting opinions on the issue.  The Supreme Court's ruling in Reynolds will provide certainty to practitioners, litigants, judges and, perhaps most importantly, businesses operating within the state.

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