Spoliation — State v. Federal Law

The Sixth Circuit, the lone Court of Appeals to hold that state law governs punishment for spoliation in federal court (see our posts of July 18, 2007, and September 28, 2007), seems to have abandoned that position — wisely — while acknowledging that in the past it has adhered to the contrary view and continuing to assert that: “We are bound by these decisions, correct or not.” From Adkins v. Wolever, 520 F.3d 585 (6th Cir. 2008):

Applying federal law in this evidentiary realm makes good sense. Federal courts generally apply their own evidentiary rules in both diversity and federal question matters, and therefore federal law should govern whether a district court abused its discretion in declining to apply spoliation sanctions. See King v. Ill. Central R.R., 337 F.3d 550, 556 (5th Cir. 2003); Hodge v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 360 F.3d 446, 449-50 (4th Cir. 2004). Quite simply, imposition of sanctions for spoliation is an inherent power of federal courts, and therefore the decision to impose them should be governed by federal law.

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