Via Electronic Discovery Law:

Based on the evidence presented, the court found that:

•  Defendant reinstalled his computer’s operating system after he had received plaintiffs’ requests for copies of various files on his computer

•  Defendant downloaded a program called Aevita Wipe & Delete shortly after he filed his answer in the case, then, in the middle of the discovery period, used that program to permanently delete all traces of certain files on his computer

The court found that defendant’s “brazen destruction of evidence” had wholly undermined the integrity of the proceedings and made it impossible to decide the case on the merits.  It concluded that the prejudice to the court and to the recording companies was irretrievable, and that default judgment was the only appropriate sanction, both for its deterrent effect and to remedy the prejudice inflicted on plaintiffs and on the court.

Accordingly, the court struck defendant’s answer and entered default judgment against defendant for $40,500 in statutory damages.

More at EDL, including the opinion.

Sounds like an appropriate remedy, right?

Except that this remedy is rarely applied when a large corporation does it, even if the evidence is clear that they willfully destroyed evidence that would have made the proof or defense of the claim very simple and obvious, like surveillance tapes, internal investigations, and satellite tracking data. The Qualcomm / Broadcom hiding-of-emails case comes to mind (here’s the primary sanction order, currently vacated awaiting further fact-finding, check EDL for plenty of info), but other than that few examples come to mind.

Typically, blatant destruction of evidence gets you, at most, a spoliation charge, allowing you merely to argue to the jury that it would have been helpful. Not an instruction that the jury should or must believe it would have been helpful; just an instruction that the jury may infer it was helpful to the other side. And corporations have an escape hatch for that, too, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(e):

(e) Failure to Provide Electronically Stored Information.

Absent exceptional circumstances, a court may not impose sanctions under these rules on a party for failing to provide electronically stored information lost as a result of the routine, good-faith operation of an electronic information system.

Someday, someone will explain to me why this provision was needed, considering that "good faith" conduct by definition won’t result in sanctions. All it does it muck up sanction arguments, to the benefit of evidence-destroying defendants.