In products liability arising out of a fire loss due caused by a coffee maker, the plaintiffs argued on appeal that the district court’s ruling that it would be inequitable to allow plaintiffs to make use of their evidence that ruled out all possible sources of the fire other than the coffee maker, it was, though not characterized as such, a spoliation sanction. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals addressed the defendant’s argument that “there is a broad duty to preserve evidence irrespective of the absence of a request by the opposing party.” While, the court noted, an obligation arises when the party knows or should have known that the evidence is or may be relevant to litigation or future litigation, “we did not hold that such an obligation continues indefinitely.” In this case, the defendant “affirmatively disclaimed any interest in the evidence. Hamilton Beach did so, moreover, after being provided a full opportunity to inspect the items…. The District Court, therefore, abused its discretion in precluding consideration of Plaintiffs’ evidence offered for purposes of eliminating the possible alternate ignition sources.”Allstate v. Hamilton Beach, No. 04-6282, 2007 U.S.App.LEXIS 189 (2d Cir. Jan. 5, 2007).

[Case further discussed on the “What’s New in Product Liability?” page.]