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Spotted Horse v. BNSF R.R. Co.

Spotted Horse v. BNSF R.R. Co., 2015 MT 148 (May 29, 2015) (Cotter, J.; Wheat, J., concurring; McKinnon, J., dissenting) (6-1, rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court abused its discretion in declining to grant plaintiff’s motion for default judgment based on spoliation of evidence; and (2) whether the district court abused its discretion when instructing the jury as to BNSF’s duty of care.

Short Answer: (1) No, but the sanction it imposed was an abuse of discretion; and (2) yes.

Reversed and remanded for a new trial

Facts: Mark Spotted Horse, a BNSF Railway machinist, claimed that he suffered a disabling injury when his co-worker inadvertently lowered a locomotive engine compartment hatch in his head. Spotted Horse reported the incident and was immediately taken to the hospital.…