*4 The course of discovery is frequently marred by disputes and nearly always imperfect. But when one party's compliance with discovery orders is so inadequate that it threatens to undermine the judicial process, a court must consider whether sanctions are necessary in order to preserve the integrity of our system of civil litigation. See
Pension Comm. of Univ. of Montreal Pension Plan v. Banc of America Sec., LLC, No. 05 Civ. 9016(SAS), 2010 WL 184312, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 15, 2010). In Pension Committee,
Judge Scheindlin recently discussed in some depth the question of when discovery violations should be considered sanctionable, as well as the related question of what the appropriate remedies should be in such cases. The Court agrees with the analytical framework set forth in that opinion and will rely on it here. As explained therein, the initial determination in any case involving sanctions is the culpability of the spoliating party-did it behave acceptably or unacceptably, and, if the latter, was its conduct negligent, grossly negligent, or willful. Id.
at *2-3. Generally speaking, if the spoliating party behaved negligently, some sanction should be imposed, with the harshness of the sanction determined by the culpability of the party and, in the case of more severe sanctions, the prejudice caused by the spoliation. See id.
at *2-4 (“For less severe sanctions-such as fines and cost-shifting-the inquiry focuses more on the conduct of the spoliating party than on whether documents were lost, and, if so, whether those documents were relevant and resulted in prejudice to the innocent party.... [F]or more severe sanctions-such as dismissal, preclusion, or the imposition of an adverse inference-the court must consider, in addition to the conduct of the spoliating party, whether any missing evidence was relevant and whether the innocent party has suffered prejudice as a result of the loss of evidence.”). “The determination of an appropriate sanction ... is confined to the sound discretion of the trial judge,” with the understanding that he or she “should always impose the least harsh sanction that can provide an adequate remedy.” Id.
at *6 (quotations omitted). An adequate remedy should “(1) deter the parties from engaging in spoliation; (2) place the risk of an erroneous judgment on the party who wrongfully created the risk; and (3) restore the prejudiced party to the same position [it] would have been in absent the wrongful destruction of evidence by the opposing party.” Id.
(quotations omitted). Ultimately, however, “[t]he selection of the appropriate remedy is a delicate matter requiring a great deal of time and attention by a court.” Id.