The result of a New Hampshire personal injury lawsuit hinges on the evidence a plaintiff presents. A plaintiff’s evidence must demonstrate that the negligent or willful behavior of the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries and damages. Evidence establishing negligence or willful conduct is obligatory in any personal injury lawsuit. It not only proves negligence, but it is used when determining the extent of damages. Protecting evidence is a vital legal requirement that both parties must follow.
When a party in a New Hampshire personal injury lawsuit negligently or intentionally fails to preserve evidence, they may face court fines and other sanctions based on the concept of spoliation. Certain states recognize a specific tort for spoliation, however, many others, including New Hampshire, remedy spoliation by sanctions or adverse jury instructions. Spoliation occurs when one party destroys, damages, fabricates, changes, or loses crucial and relevant evidence. Specifically, New Hampshire courts define spoliation as the “intentional, negligent, or malicious destruction of relevant evidence.” Some common examples of spoliation are behaviors such as; destroying security footage that recorded an accident, tampering with complaint reports that show a prior history of similar incidents, and forging safety compliance documents.
Although New Hampshire courts have yet to determine whether spoliation should be its own tort, they do impose sanctions on the violating party. In instances where a party is adversely impacted by spoliation, that impacted party may request a jury instruction that addresses the spoliation. The jury may be instructed that they can draw adverse inferences towards the offending party and the evidence that they destroyed. This instruction is only appropriate when the evidence was destroyed on purpose with fraudulent intent.