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Destruction of Evidence Part 1: Do I Have to Keep a Totaled Car?

July 14, 2021 Blog News

Your new used car suffers three dangerous blowouts within days of driving it off the lot. You return it to the dealer, who replaces the rear axle with a part it knows is defective. The dealer assures you that you can drive it, and you are promptly involved in a serious accident.

After the accident, the totaled car is towed away and, unbeknownst to you, sold by the junkyard for scrap. In an ensuing lawsuit, the dealer argues your case should be dismissed because you “failed to preserve” your wrecked vehicle. The trial court in Souza v. Fred Carries Contracts, Inc., agrees.

How do Arizona courts evaluate destruction of evidence claims? The Court of Appeals identified several factors, including the intent of the destroying party, the diligence of the opposite party in pursuing the evidence, the degree of prejudice , and the availability of less extreme sanctions.

Did those factors support dismissing plaintiff’s claim?