New Jersey courts impose severe penalties for intentional or negligent destruction of evidence. An attorney must impress upon a client the importance of preserving evidence and the consequences for failing to do so. And, an attorney whose client is injured by spoliation of evidence should proceed cautiously to ensure the appropriate relief is obtained.

Spoliation refers to the hiding or destroying of litigation evidence, usually by an adverse party, that interferes with the pending action’s administration and disposition. Rosenblit v. Zimmerman, 166 N.J. 391, 400-01 (2001) (citing Black’s Law Dictionary 1409 (7th ed. 1999)); Hirsch v. General Motors Corp., 266 N.J.Super. 222, 234 (Law Div. 1993) (citing Nancy Melgaard, “Note, Spoliation of Evidence — An Independent Tort?” 67 N.D.L.Rev. 501 (1991)). Key issues once evidence is lost are: (1) the manner in which the courts can and will address concerns of the parties; (2) how courts will protect the rights of innocent parties; and (3) the manner in which wrongdoers will be penalized.

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