Parties involved in litigation have a duty to preserve evidence, including electronic data. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan recently ruled that, if electronic data is deleted or destroyed in bad faith, monetary sanctions may be imposed along with an irrefutable adverse inference at trial that the destroyed data contained information that is unfavorable to the culpable party. The irrefutable inference may be immensely damaging to a party's chances at trial because it gives the jury free rein to assume the worst about the evidence that has been "covered up." The jury can use its imagination to assume which documents were destroyed, and the jury may come to the conclusion that a party who destroys evidence may be untrustworthy with respect to other issues in controversy.
The purpose of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act ("SCRA") is to allow the suspension of certain legal and administrative proceedings involving servicemembers who are unable to attend to their legal or financial obligations because of their military service to our country. The SCRA is a very technical law and failure to follow its dictates could result in a denial of a request for a stay. Stays are also not automatic, as the servicemember must demonstrate that he or she is "materially affected" because of his or her military service. Courts and counsel can find the law to be obtuse, but there are many good guides to the statute, including the "Michigan Judge's Guide to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act," which can be found on-line. These guides are useful in helping counsel understand the requirements of the law, whether representing the military person in need of a stay, or the litigant opposing a request for a stay.