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Aloi v. Union Pacific Railroad Corp.
Colorado Supreme Court
129 P.3d 999 (2006)
Frank Aloi (plaintiff) was a conductor for Union Pacific Railroad Corporation (Union Pacific) (defendant). While working on a Union Pacific train, Aloi tripped going down a stairwell, suffering injuries. Aloi and Union Pacific both inspected the stairwell and found that a vertical piece of rubber on a stair riser was loose. Aloi’s attorneys informed Union Pacific that Aloi would be filing a lawsuit for his injuries. Federal regulations required Union Pacific to inspect their trains regularly and to maintain the inspection reports for 92 days. Union Pacific’s policy was to destroy the reports and maintenance records after the mandatory 92 days unless it had received notice that a particular report or record might be evidence in an upcoming lawsuit. However, despite having notice of Aloi’s upcoming lawsuit, Union Pacific destroyed the train’s inspection reports and maintenance records for the time periods right before and after Aloi’s fall. Union Pacific claimed that the destruction was an error by a new employee and not a deliberate attempt to destroy known evidence. At trial, the court gave an adverse-inference jury instruction, telling the jury it could infer that the missing records contained evidence unfavorable to Union Pacific. The jury awarded Aloi $6 million in damages. Union Pacific appealed. The court of appeals ruled that the adverse-inference jury instruction was allowed, and the case went before the Colorado Supreme Court.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Rice, J.)
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