In this action to recover damages for personal injuries sustained during a ceiling collapse in Plaintiff’s apartment, the Appellate Division, First Department (Opinion by Scarpulla, J.), in accordance with M&H’s arguments, reversed the lower court’s order awarding Defendant a spoilation sanction based upon Plaintiff having undergone back surgery prior to Defendant’s independent medical evaluation.
In so holding, Justice Scarpulla reasoned, “the state of one’s body is fundamentally different from inanimate evidence, and medical treatment, including surgery, is entirely distinct from the destruction of documents or tangible evidence which spoilation sanctions attempt to ameliorate. To find that a person has an ‘obligation,’ to preserve his or her body in an injured state so that a defendant may conduct an ME, is antithetical to our belief in personal liberty and control over our own bodies.”
In this vein, Justice Scarpulla further instructed, “Plaintiffs must be free to determine when to undergo medical treatments based on personal factors such as doctor’s advice and their specific pain and discomfort level. It would be absurd for courts to require a plaintiff to forego surgery (or other medical treatment) for an injury so as not to potentially compromise a lawsuit against the party(s) alleged to have caused the injury”.