The doctrine of spoliation is a legal concept developed through case law that allows trial court judges to sanction a litigant who intentionally or negligently loses or destroys evidence that they knew or should have reasonably known may be relevant to a possible Massachusetts personal injury case. This doctrine may be applied even when the spoliation occurs prior to the filing of a civil action. An appellate court in Massachusetts looked at spoliation in a negligence action stemming from a choking incident at a public school.
The case was filed after a young school child choked on meatballs served at the cafeteria in a public school. He began choking at the end of his lunch period, and several attempts using the Heimlich maneuver and back blows proved to be unsuccessful. The food was eventually dislodged by professional emergency staff, but the child had been without oxygen for too long and sustained catastrophic brain injuries. The parents filed suit against the school and the company that manufactured the meatball.
The company that made and sold meatballs to the public school system utilized a protein solution to meet the required level of protein. The injured child’s parents asserted the use of this solution caused the meatball to have an unreasonably dangerous texture, creating a choking hazard. An expert hired by the plaintiffs recreated the meatball using the formula provided by the defendant company through interrogatory answers. At trial, the expert opined the meatball was harder to break apart and chew than others without this protein solution. The plaintiffs’ expert stated the size and texture of this meatball presented a choking risk to children.