Magazine article HRMagazine

Destruction of Files Draws Adverse Inference from Jury

Magazine article HRMagazine

Destruction of Files Draws Adverse Inference from Jury

Article excerpt

Hallmark Cards Inc. v. Murley, 8th Cir., No. 11-2855 (Jan. 15, 2013).

A jury properly assumed that the contents of computer files destroyed by a former employee being sued for breaching a separation agreement would have been detrimental to her defense, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

Janet Murley was Hallmark Cards Inc.'s vice president of marketing from 1999 to 2002, when her position was eliminated. Murley and Hallmark entered into a separation agreement, under which Murley agreed not to disclose or use any proprietary or confidential information or to retain any business records or documents relating to Hallmark.

In 2006, Murley accepted a consulting assignment with Recycled Paper Greetings (RPG). Murley admitted that she disclosed confidential Hallmark information to her new company.

Hallmark sued Murley for a breach of the parties' separation agreement. During discovery, Hallmark learned that in 2007 an RPG investor had arranged for a forensic computer company to make a copy of Murley's hard drive. Upon review of the hard drive, Hallmark's computer expert testified that in the two days leading up to its 2007 copying, 67 documents had been deleted, eight of which related to Hallmark. …

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