Suing Your Employer For Spoliation of Evidence

Date: September 28, 2009
Posted In: DLP Law

James suffered catastrophic injuries, including quadriplegia, when the truck he was driving as an employee for Peter Pan Transport, Inc. went off the road on Interstate 81 south of Scranton. James\’ attorney brought suit against various manufacturers of component parts of the truck.

Unfortunately for James, Peter Pan Transport, Inc. had destroyed and failed to preserve key parts of the truck, including the brakes themselves, “black boxes” that monitored the action of the antilock brakes and motor, and other items. Based upon these actions, James sought to sue his employer, Peter Pan Transport, Inc., because he alleged that they either intentionally or negligently destroyed all of the evidence he would need to establish his claim.

Normally, an employee cannot sue his employer due to the exclusivity provisions of the Workers\’ Compensation Act in Pennsylvania. These provisions bar suit when the employee is in the scope and course of employment at the time of his injury.

Issue: Can James sue his employer in this case?

Answer: Yes. James is not alleging in his complaint damages from his former employer for physical injuries to himself during the course of his employment as a driver. Rather, he alleges that he has economically been damaged as a result of the alleged actions of his former employer, Peter Pan Transport, Inc., in destroying essential evidence that may well fatally damage any right of action he would have had against the manufacturers of the component parts involved in the braking system.

In cases like that of James, which are called products liability lawsuits, a preservation of the evidence is absolutely essential so that the defendants have a fair opportunity to inspect the alleged defective parts themselves. Absent the availability of these parts for inspection by all parties, these types of suits are thrown out of court.

Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive. Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column.

Joe Price
Attorney Joe Price is a seasoned Trial Lawyer serving Northeast, Central and Southeast Pennsylvania for the past forty (40) years. He has handled serious personal injury cases in courts throughout the Federal system including New Jersey and New York. Attorney Price is A.V. Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is Board Certified in Civil Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1996.