United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
LYNN WINMILL U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
Court has before it a motion for sanctions for the
intentional spoliation of text messages filed by defendant.
The motion is fully briefed and at issue. For the reasons
explained below, the Court will deny the motion without
prejudice to defendant BYU-I's right to raise the motion
again depending on trial testimony, and the Court will allow
a full inquiry by BYU-I at trial into the issues identified
in this decision.
Stevens, a former BYU-I student, alleges that Robert Stokes,
a former BYU-I professor, initiated an unwanted relationship
with her while she was a student and Stokes was a professor
at BYU-I. Stevens alleges that this relationship ultimately
became sexually and emotionally abusive. She further asserts
that she, along with another student, Danielle Spencer,
reported Stokes' inappropriate and abusive behavior to
several BYU-I professors and officials, who failed to take
any action. The relationship ended when Stokes died on July
1, 2016, from complications during heart surgery. Stevens
originally sued BYU-I and the Stokes estate. She later
settled her claims against the Stokes estate. The LDS Church
intervened for “the limited purpose of protecting its
claims of privilege. . . .” See Order (Dkt. No.
are now four claims in this case against BYU-I:
1. Teacher-on-student hostile environment/sexual harassment
actionable under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act;
2. Teacher-on-student quid pro quo sexual harassment;
3. Hostile learning environment in violation of the
Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act;
4. Violation of the Idaho Human Rights Act.
lawsuit, Stevens intends to introduce selected text messages
between her and Stokes to describe that relationship and
support her claim of harassment and abuse. It is undisputed,
however, that Stevens selectively and intentionally deleted a
large amount of texts between the two. BYU-I argues that
Stevens' deletions warrant sanctions such as dismissal of
this lawsuit or exclusion of the remaining texts from
evidence. To resolve this motion, the Court must review what
the record reveals about Stevens' deletions of the texts.
her relationship with Stokes, and prior to his death, Stevens
would selectively delete certain texts between the two, but
stopped that practice after he died. See Stevens
Deposition at 126. So what did Stevens delete? She
testified that she generally deleted “chitchat”
such as her texts to Stokes that she “woke up at 5:00
this morning and I went and had breakfast.”
Id. at 121. At other times, she randomly deleted
texts with Stokes because she “was having a really bad
day and my phone was clear full [and] I didn't even want
to look at them, and I would just hit delete.”
Id. at 125. But she kept Stokes' texts that
reminded her that she was “a good person - because I
need those reminders all of the time to function. If I looked
at it, and it said, ‘you're a good person,'
then I saved it.” Id. at 123. She also saved
text messages from Stokes where she questioned “whether
he was telling me the truth or not.” She kept those
texts as a form of protection because “if it turns out
he is lying to me, if I ever told anybody that he was having
sex with me, nobody would believe me.” Id. at
asked if the number of texts she deleted prior to Stokes'
death was “a huge number of texts, ” Stevens
answered “yeah.” Id. at 128. At another
point, when asked if she deleted texts before Stokes ...