CHARLES D. BRADEN, JR., Plaintiff
GRANITE CORPORATION MEDICAL CENTER Defendant,
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
AND PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SPOLIATION
I. Billings, Justice
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment and Plaintiff's Motion for Spoliation.
summer of 2011, renovations were being made to Gilbert
Elementary School in Augusta ("the Project").
(S.M.F. ¶ 1; Add. S.M.F. ¶ 1). Defendant, Granite
Corporation, was subcontracted to do the HVAC work on the
Project. (S.M.F. ¶ 5). In 2011 Kevin Purnell was, and
still is, the President of Granite Corporation. (S.M.F.
¶ 6). At the time, Charles D. Braden, Jr., Plaintiff,
was employed by Central Maine Drywall, another subcontractor
on the Project. (S.M.F. ¶¶ 2, 4). The General
Contractor ("GC") on the Project was S.J. Wood
Construction Co., Inc. (S.M.F. ¶ 3).
August 8, 2011, Plaintiff was working on the Project,
installing a metal grid for a suspended ceiling about 12 feet
above the floor. (Add. S.M.F. ¶ 14). Prior to entering
the hallway where the work was to be performed, Plaintiff and
his co-workers looked down the hall for trip hazards. (Add.
S.M.F. ¶ 17). To perform his job, Plaintiff wore stilts
that were about 3 feet high. (Add. S.M.F. ¶ 20). While
hanging the ceiling grid, Plaintiff fell and hit the ground.
(Add. S.M.F. ¶ 24). His co-workers pointed out a puddle
of water on the floor, which all of them noticed for the
first time. (Add. S.M.F. ¶¶ 25, 20).
Plaintiff's stilts were wet. (Add. S.M.F. ¶ 30).
Plaintiff looked up and saw water dripping off a piece of the
HVAC system. (Add. S.M.F. ¶¶ 27-28).
Assigning Blame After the Fact
told the GC's on-site supervisor that he slipped and fell
in a puddle of water. (Add. S.M.F. ¶ 31). Plaintiff
testified that the supervisor blamed "the plumbers"
for the puddle, stating that he had ordered the "HVAC
plumbers" several times to put buckets under leaks.
(S.M.F. ¶ 8; Add. S.M.F. ¶ 32). Plaintiff claims
that on-site, Defendant and its employees were referred to as
"plumbers," and that Mr. Purnell described
Defendant's work on the Project as "plumbing"
in an email. (Add. S.M.F. ¶ 6; See Pl's Ex.
stated that to perform its job, all the water had to be
purged from the HVAC system. (S.M.F. ¶ 10). Defendant
asserts that the system was purged in June, and remained
purged and not "recharged" with water until after
Plaintiff's fall. (S.M.F. ¶¶ 11-13). However,
in a July "Charge Proposal" to the GC, Mr. Purnell
stated Defendant needed to "drain piping" in order
to install ductwork. (Add. S.M.F. ¶ 7). Additionally,
Defendant's employees may have used a water and soap
solution to test the pipes for leaks throughout the summer.
(Add. S.M.F. ¶¶ 8-13). Lastly, in a handwritten
note from the week before the fall, the GC's supervisor
informed his superior that parts of the HVAC plumbing had
leaked after being tested, and the supervisor wanted to
ensure that Defendant received this information. (Add. S.M.F.
¶ 33; See Pl's Ex. F).
Destruction of Documents
had knowledge of a potential claim regarding Plaintiff's
fall through three channels: an October 7, 2011 letter from
Plaintiff's worker's compensation supervisor; a
January 4, 2012 Notice of Claim served upon Defendant in
connection with this litigation; and notification by
Defendant's attorney to Mr. Purnell roughly six months
after the fall.
years later, on or around July 30, 2014, Defendant's
computer crashed, destroying the only electronic records of
the Project. Upon examination in 2017 by a computer recovery
specialist, only two files were recovered from the crashed
computer: "Time by Job Detail" and "Item
Actual Cost Detail."
standard retention policy was to move paper files to the
attic for storage approximately two years after completion of
a project. In August 2014, when Defendant's air
conditioner in the attic was being serviced, Defendant told
employees to discard any wet or damaged files in the attic.
Mr. Purnell did not personally examine all files discarded at
that time, and therefore cannot affirmatively state whether
the Project's files were discarded then. However, Mr.
Purnell personally searched for the paper files requested by
Plaintiff (employee time cards and the "Project
Book") in 2017 and could not locate them.
time cards would show detail about the tasks done each day by
each of Defendant's employees. The Project Book would
show the scope of the work, specifications, drawings, and
task lists of items to be accomplished. The Time by Job
Detail shows each task category, the employee who performed
the work, and the date and hours spent on the work.
(See Pl's Ex. H). Mr. Purnell states that all
the information on the ...