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Discrimination suit dismissed for spoliation

Document custodians must track a mass of digital data, and are bound to overlook – or delete – documents that later are demanded in a lawsuit.

But there are sins of omission, and sins of commission. Taking a sledgehammer to a work computer would be the latter.

Alan Taylor, a “computer expert by trade,” first talked to a lawyer about suing Mitre Corporation in 2009. The lawyer told him to keep all files and documents related to his claims for disability discrimination and violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Taylor later changed lawyers. He filed his EEOC claim in 2010.

Sometime in 2011, Taylor “’wiped’ his work desktop, then ‘took a sledgehammer to it’ and disposed of it in the local landfill,” according to Alexandria U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady’s Nov. 8 opinion dismissing Taylor’s suit. The work computer had copies of Taylor’s work-related emails.

Not content, Taylor also used “Evidence Eliminator” and “CCleaner” software to sanitize a laptop that he had to submit for inspection. O’Grady said the “express purpose” for using Evidence Eliminator is to remove “sensitive material” from a computer hard drive and defeat forensic software.

Maybe Taylor forgot to disable the CCleaner software, as he said, but using the Evidence Eliminator was something O’Grady could not forgive.

In Taylor v. Mitre Corp., he dismissed the suit with prejudice.

–Deborah Elkins

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