Spoliation

For a recent summary of the doctrine of spoliation, see the decision in Stillwell v. World Kitchen, [2013] ONSC 3354 (S.C.J.).

The plaintiff brought an action against the manufacturer of a dutch oven that broke into four pieces as he was washing it, causing a severe laceration to his wrist.  The plaintiff told his wife to dispose of the product shortly after the incident.  He testified that he gave no thought to a lawsuit at the time; he simply did not want to see the pot when he returned home from surgery.

At trial, one of the issues was whether the jury should be charged on spoliation.  Justice Leach held he would not charge the jury on spoliation.  Spoliation gives rise to a rebuttable presumption of fact that the missing evidence, had it been preserved, would have been unfavourable to the party that destroyed it; however, an adverse inference does not arise merely because the evidence has been destroyed.  There must be intentional destruction in circumstances where it can reasonably be inferred that evidence was destroyed to affect the litigation.  There was no evidence that the plaintiff intentionally destroyed the dutch oven, so the doctrine of spoliation would not be put to the jury.

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