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Mississippi Court of Appeals: Jury Must See Evidence Where Spoliation Unclear

This week Judge Jim Greenlee of the Mississippi Court of Appeals issued a decision, Murphy v. William Carey Univ., No 2018-CA-00910-COA, 2020 Miss. App. LEXIS 462 (Miss. Ct. App. Aug. 11, 2020), reversing a lower court’s granting of the Appellees’ summary judgment motion on a negligence claim but affirming one on a breach of contract claim.

The Circuit Court denied the Plaintif’s motion for an adverse inference instruction based on the Appellees’ spoliation of electronically stored information. Judge Greenlee refused to mandate that a spoliation instruction be issued to the jury at trial because it was not known what evidence would be presented to the jury. The opinion cites a decision of the Supreme Court of Mississippi which held that,”the explanation for the original record's absence may be fully satisfying either that it was lost through no fault of the [party], that the [party] deliberately destroyed it, or as in most cases, somewhere in between, thereby making it a jury issue." Id. at *28-29 (quoting DeLaughter v. Lawrence Cty. Hosp., 601 So.2d 818, 824 (Miss. 1992)). The jury must be able to determine if there was a reasonable explanation for the loss of the evidence.

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