Extract from Allison Dunn’s article “‘Dismissal Is Too Harsh a Punishment’: Magistrate Judge Issues Spoliation Sanction Against Ex-Lenovo Employee Who Wiped Hard Drive”
Despite finding that counsel at Seyfarth Shaw “more than met its burden” of proving that a former Lenovo Global Technology employee intentionally wiped a company laptop hard drive clean knowing litigation was likely, a federal magistrate judge stopped short of dismissing the case as a sanction.
The plaintiff, Daniel McLaughlin, was employed as an account executive with Lenovo from July 2016, until his termination in April 2020. Weeks after he was terminated, McLaughlin filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts alleging that Lenovo failed to pay him for commissions, a bonus, and certain business expenses spanning several years, in excess of $100,000.
It was company policy to make reimbursement requests within a few days of the expense and it was also policy to return a work laptop, which he kept in his possession for approximately 14 months after his termination, according to U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein’s memorandum of decision and order filed July 18.
The plaintiff made initial disclosures in November 2020, and Lenovo still did not have the laptop. Communication between McLaughlin’s attorney, Thomas W. Evans, an employment attorney with Conforto Law Group in Boston, apparently led Lenovo’s counsel, Alison H. Silveira and Kristin G. McGurn, both partners at Seyfarth Shaw’s Boston office, to believe that McLaughlin had not returned the laptop because he wanted to remove his personal information from the device.