Preservation of Evidence

A critical aspect of legal proceedings is ensuring that relevant information and physical evidence is safeguarded for fair and just resolution. We have been involved in numerous lawsuits where physical evidence has been discarded. These physical items that contributed to any claim should be removed from service but held for any legal claims or lawsuits that may arise.

Understanding the Duty to Preserve Evidence:

Nothing threatens the integrity of the judicial process more than the spoliation of evidence. When critical documents go missing, our civil justice system faces challenges. Courts consider whether a duty to preserve evidence exists. Factors include the conduct triggering the obligation, the extent of the duty, and to whom it extends. The duty to preserve arises from common law principles. It can also stem from contracts, voluntarily assumed duties, statutes, ethical codes, or other special circumstances.


At TNRMT we have had numerous claims involving visitors allegedly tripping on a rug when walking into a building.  Often, the rug is immediately disposed of.  The injured party’s attorney alleges that the rug was curled or worn causing the claimant to fall.  Can it be determined whether there was damage to the rug? Was the rug the cause of the incident or was the fall really caused by the visitor tripping over their own two feet? Without the rug as evidence for inspection, we cannot prove the rug didn’t cause the accident. The same would apply to any other piece of equipment, such as an alleged defective chair or step ladder. Photographs taken immediately of such accident scenes are also instrumental in assisting our investigations.

In todays’ world there literally are cameras everywhere. Everyone has a cell phone with a camera. Surveillance cameras are located on school buses and other vehicles, in jails, in schools, on traffic signals and on doorbells of commercial buildings and residences. Many of these camera systems capture data in a loop. Unless the videos are downloaded within a reasonable amount of time the recording is lost. One of our schools recently suffered a significant fire loss that cost approximately $500,000 to repair. Physical evidence at the scene indicated the fire started in the vicinity of an electrical outlet. Fortunately, a surveillance camera captured the fire originating from what first appeared as a tiny glow to a fully involved fire behind a rented soft drink machine. The video was instrumental in TNRMT recovering most of these repair costs.

Best Practices for Evidence Preservation:

  • Timely Action: As soon as you learn of an accident, identify and preserve such evidence. Waiting until litigation commences is too late in most instances.
  • Legal Holds: TNRMT defense counsel will implement legal holds to ensure relevant data, documents, and physical evidence are safeguarded.
  • Communication: Our attorneys will communicate with clients, IT departments, and relevant personnel to ensure compliance with preservation obligations.

Impact on Litigation and Safety Culture

  • Positive Impact: Proper evidence preservation enhances safety, reduces workplace injuries, and fosters a strong safety culture.
  • Newsletter Recipients: Share this information with your colleagues, clients, and legal teams to promote awareness and compliance.

Remember, preserving evidence is not just a legal obligation; it’s a fundamental step toward achieving justice.


Questions about this article:

Debra Coy            615 651-8625

Tom Stanley      615 651-8625