No Rule 37 Violation Where The Documents Were Produced

This is a case where the plaintiff allegedly deleted some text messages from his phone that were relevant to this case. The Defendant moved for Rule 37(e) sanctions, but the motion was denied because the messages were obtained from other sources.

First, sanctions under Rule 37(e) are available “only where ESI has been `lost’ and `cannot be restored or replaced through additional discovery.'” Goldman v. Sol Goldman Invs. LLC, No. 20CV06727MKVSN, 2022 WL 2118199, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. June 11, 2022) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(e)). Thus even if a party himself has deleted messages, there can be no sanctions if the messages are provided from another source, because they are not “lost.” Id. at *4 (holding sanctions are not available where Plaintiff deleted an email that was subsequently produced from another source: “The email was not lost because [the recipient] produced it at his deposition. Therefore, spoliation sanctions may not be awarded for Plaintiff’s failure to produce the May 28 email, and the Court need not inquire into Plaintiff’s state of mind.”); CBF Industria de Gusa S/A v. AMCI Holdings, Inc., No. 13CV2581PKCJLC, 2021 WL 4190628, at *11 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 18, 2021) (noting that deleted messages that can be obtained from the other parties are not permanently lost or unrecoverable under Rule 37); Morgan Art Found. Ltd. v. McKenzie, No. 18CV4438ATBCM, 2020 WL 5836438, at *19 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2020) (holding Rule 37 sanctions were not available because deleted messages which still exist in another account “are not permanently lost, and in fact they have already been produced”).

That is precisely the circumstance here; although Mr. Rosario deleted the text message chains from his own phone, they have been obtained from other participants: Plaintiff’s counsel and John Torres. Because Defendants have not and cannot establish that any relevant messages are “lost” and “cannot be restored or replaced through additional discovery,” their request for sanctions fails at the first step.[2] See Watkins v. New York City Transit Auth., No. 16 CIV. 4161 (LGS), 2018 WL 895624, at *10 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 13, 2018) (Defendants have “the burden of establishing the elements of a spoliation claim by a preponderance of the evidence.”).

Source: Rosario v. City of New York, S.D. N.Y. 18 civ 4023, July 27, 2022.

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