What is it with drillers and spoliation of evidence cases? First it was Cincinnati Ins. Co. v. Mid-South Drillers Supply, Inc. which is a Tennessee leading case on the subject. And now, we have a new spoliation case with a different drilling company, Griffith Services Drilling, LLC v. Arrow Gas & Oil, Inc. So, let’s drill down on this issue a bit, shall we?
Griffith Services Drilling, LLC (Griffith Drilling) and its insurance carrier sued Arrow Gas & Oil, Inc. (Arrow) for $1.2 million in property damage caused by a fire. On the day of the fire, an Arrow employee, Mr. Burress, delivered fuel to Griffith Drilling. During the refueling, Burress walked away to converse with some of the Griffith Drilling employees. Shortly thereafter, a Griffith Drilling employee yelled that fuel was spraying and a fire ignited. When Burress moved the Arrow truck to get it away from the fire, the fuel nozzle broke off. The next day, Burress took the broken nozzle to a retailer and traded it in for a new nozzle. Griffith Drilling was not provided any notice of Arrow’s intent to replace the nozzle.
After the fire and without notifying Arrow, Grifftih Drilling’s insurance carrier authorized clean up of the site and disposed of all evidence of the fire. One month after the clean-up was completed, Griffith Drilling sent Arrow a notice of its intent to pursue a claim for the fire damage. Suit was eventually filed and Arrow counterclaimed for breach of contract as Griffith Drilling had failed to pay for the fuel delivered to the site. Thereafter, Arrow filed two motions: (1) a motion to dismiss for spoliation of evidence based on Griffith Drilling’s clean up of the site; (2) a motion for summary judgment on the breach of contract counterclaim. The trial court granted both motions. Griffith Drilling appealed alleging the trial court erred by granting both motions.