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Surowiec v. Capital Title Agency, Inc.

United States District Court for the District of Arizona
790 F. Supp. 2d 997 (2011)


Facts

James Surowiec (plaintiff) purchased a condominium from the developer Shamrock Glen, LLC (Shamrock). The escrow agent for the transaction was Scott Romley, who worked for Capital Title Agency, Inc. (Capital) (defendant). Surowiec sued Capital, alleging that Romley had failed to disclose that the property was encumbered by deeds of trust held by Shamrock investors. Capital’s in-house counsel, Lawrence Phelps, first learned of the potential litigation regarding title and escrow deficiencies when Shamrock’s attorney sent him a letter detailing condominium owners’ inquiries about outstanding liens on their properties. Phelps discussed this matter with Capital officers and Romley, but failed to advise his clients to preserve evidence or to implement a document retention policy. During discovery for the Surowiec litigation, it came to light that Capital had destroyed communications and documents relevant to the case through its failure to suspend its routine document destruction policy. Surowiec filed a motion for entry of a default judgment against Capital, or in the alternative an adverse inference jury instruction about the destroyed documents.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Campbell, J.)

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