Stevenson v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.
United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
354 F.3d. 739 (2004)
A train-crossing collision seriously injured Frank Stevenson (plaintiff) and killed his wife in November 1998. Stevenson sued Union Pacific Railroad Company (Union) (defendant) 10 months later. The court held a three-day pretrial hearing addressing Union’s destruction of two types of evidence. First, Union recorded over an audio tape of contemporaneous conversations between the crew and dispatch under its routine procedure of reusing tapes. But Union preserved other records of the accident, saved tapes helpful in other cases, and knew their relevance in fatal-collision lawsuits. The court found destroying the tape prejudiced Stevenson’s case because no other records of contemporaneous conversations existed. Second, Union destroyed track-maintenance records before and during litigation under a one-year retention policy. The judge found Union’s spoliation unreasonable and in bad faith, warranting sanctions. At the trial’s outset, the judge informed the jury that Union destroyed evidence it should have preserved and gave an adverse-inference instruction that the jurors could, but were not required to, assume that the tape and records were adverse to Union. The judge did not allow Union to rebut that instruction by explaining its routine record-retention policies and repeated the instruction at the trial’s close. The jury found for Stevenson, and the court awarded him attorneys’ fees related to spoliation. Union appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Hansen, J.)
What to do next…
Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.
You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 724,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Berkeley, and Northwestern—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students.Unlock this case briefRead our student testimonials
Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.
Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students.Learn about our approachRead more about Quimbee
Here's why 724,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:
- Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 45,600 briefs, keyed to 983 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
- The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
- Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
- Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.