United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division
DOLORES S. WILLIS, ET AL.
COST PLUS, INC., ET AL.
WHITEHURST MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court in this personal injury suit brought pursuant to
the Louisiana Merchant Liability Statute, La. R.S. 9:2800.6,
is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment brought by Defendant
Cost Plus, Inc. Record Document 19. Pursuant to its motion,
Defendant seeks dismissal of Plaintiff s claims of negligent
spoliation of evidence and intentional spoliation of
evidence. Id. For the reasons that follow, the
motion is GRANTED.
Factual and Procedural Background
Willis brings this suit for personal injuries allegedly
incurred on March 5, 2016, while shopping at the Cost Plus
World Market Store in Lafayette, Louisiana. According to
Plaintiff, while she was shopping, "a merchandise
display consisting of several room dividers suddenly fell in
a domino effect, ultimately striking [Plaintiff], causing her
to fall violently onto the concrete floor. . . ." Record
Document 25 at ¶ 1. Plaintiff alleges she
"sustained severe and debilitating injuries, including a
traumatic brain injury, as a result of her head striking the
concrete floor at Cost Plus." Record Document 23 at 2.
accident was investigated by Rachel Evans, General Manager of
the Lafayette Cost Plus World Market store. Record Documents
25 at ¶ 2 and 19-2 at ¶ 3. On the day of the
incident, Ms. Evans filled out a "Customer Incident
Form." Record Documents 23 at 3-4 and 23-2 at 11. The
form contains a section where either "Yes" or
"No" is to be checked in response to the question,
"Accident recorded on CCTV?" Id. at 11.
Ms. Evans checked the "Yes" box on the Customer
Incident Form. Id. On January 11, 2017, counsel for
Plaintiff took the deposition of Defendant, wherein Ms. Evans
testified on behalf of the corporation pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6). At the deposition, Ms. Evans testified
she incorrectly checked the "Yes" box on the
Customer Incident Form. Record Document 23-1 at 16-17.
According to Ms. Evans' testimony, although she indicated
on the Customer Incident Form that the accident was captured
on the store's surveillance cameras, she later reviewed
the video footage and realized the accident was not captured
on video, "because there was no closed circuit TV in
that direction." Id. at 17; see also
Id. at 16; Record Document 19-3 at 15, 23, According
to Ms. Evans, there are "no cameras that encompass the
area where the incident occurred." Id. at 24.
10, 2016, Plaintiff filed suit with this Court. In the Complaint,
Plaintiff states as follows:
Immediately after the accident, defendant, Cost Plus, was
notified of the incident and a request was made to preserve
the surveillance video which depicts the accident. Defendant,
Cost Plus, is under a continuing obligation to preserve all
evidence in the matter since it was put on notice of a
potential claim. Failure on the part of defendant, Cost Plus,
to preserve said evidence constitutes an act of spoliation.
Record Document 1 at ¶ 15.
after the 30(b)(6) deposition of Defendant, Plaintiff filed a
"First Amending and Supplemental Complaint, "
alleging in pertinent part as follows:
Complainants are entitled to an adverse inference of
spoliation based on the fact that the surveillance videos
cannot be produced. See Robertson v Frank's Super
Value Foods, Inc., 08-592 (La.App. 5th Cir.
11309) 7 So.3d 669, 673, discussing Louisiana's
recognition of "adverse presumption, " which allows
the jury to be instructed to presume that the destroyed
evidence contained information detrimental to the party that
destroyed the evidence.
Complainants further seek any and all other remedies
available under Louisiana law pertaining to defendants'
negligent and/or intentional destruction/deletion of the
Document 11 at ¶¶ 6-7 (internal quotation marks
omitted). Defendant now seeks dismissal with
prejudice of Plaintiff s claims of negligent and intentional
spoliation. Record Document 19 at 2.
Standard of Review
party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim
or defense-or the part of each claim or defense-on which
summary judgment is sought." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
"The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant
shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law." Id. "A genuine issue of material
fact exists when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the ...