Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Stevens v. Brigham Young University

United States District Court, D. Idaho

December 3, 2019

LORI STEVENS Plaintiff,
v.
BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY - IDAHO dba BYU-Idaho, a Utah corporation and SUSAN STOKES, personal representative of the Estate of Stephan Stokes, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. LYNN WINMILL U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         The 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.

         LITIGATION BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff 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. 89).

         There 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; and
4. Violation of the Idaho Human Rights Act.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In this 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.

         During 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 123-24.

         When 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.