In a full-fledged opinion by Justice Saxe, the First Department determined the City’s erasure of an audio recording related to a police chase that resulted in injuries to plaintiffs constituted negligent spoliation under New York common law and there was no need to rely on federal authority re: the spoliation of electronically stored information [ESI]:
…[P]laintiffs’ spoliation claim can be fully addressed under New York’s common-law spoliation doctrine. However, because plaintiffs rely exclusively on the [federal] Zubulake IV rule that “[o]nce a party reasonably anticipates litigation, it must suspend its routine document retention/destruction policy and put in place a litigation hold'” to preserve evidence (220 FRD at 218), we briefly address the question of whether we need to import Zubulake’s rules into the established New York common-law rules as to spoliation of non-ESI evidence.
The cases in which this Court has explicitly adopted the Zubulake rulings have involved ESI discovery … . The usefulness of the Zubulake standard in the e-discovery arena, is … that it “provides litigants with sufficient certainty as to the nature of their obligations in the electronic discovery context and when those obligations are triggered” (93 AD3d at 36). At the same time, … Zubulake “is harmonious with New York precedent in the traditional discovery context” … . This is an area that did not need greater certainty or clarification. * * *
We … conclude that reliance on the federal standard is unnecessary in this context. Zubulake interpreted federal rules and earlier federal case law to adapt those rules to the context of ESI discovery. However, the erasure of, and the obligation to preserve, relevant audiotapes and videotapes, can be, and has been, fully addressed without reference to the federal rules and standards. Strong v City of New York, 2013 NY Slip Op 06655, 1st Dept 10-15-13