Back Attorneys: Benefis destroyed evidence - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Back Attorneys: Benefis destroyed evidence

UPDATE: Judge John Kutzman has denied the Plaintiffs' spoliation motion.

Court documents filed Friday, February 16th state that while Benefis may have been "negligent," they were not necessarily "willful." The 36-page document goes on to state the "Plaintiffs cite no legal authority to support inferring willful spoliation from the entire pattern of Benefis's mistakes in discovery." Documents conclude by stating in part, "Ultimately the court cannot say without indulging in speculation that the plaintiffs have been deprived of evidence that would have made their case better than it is now."


As we first reported on kfbb.com, the case surrounding Belt Football Player Robert Back and Benefis Health System was focused on the legal responsibility of Athletic Trainer Jessica Hansen, in the game that ultimately led to Back suffering a brain injury and becoming a quadriplegic.

A new legal battle is brewing over whether or not Benefis purposefully destroyed evidence.

To catch up on the timeline of this case: in September of 2014, Robert Back collapsed after halftime on the football field doctors later determined the full extent of his injuries as we know them today.

In July of 2015, attorneys alerted Benefis Health System that they were planning to file suit, and they should begin preserving all evidence.

The following March, the Back family did file suit, claiming negligence from several parties.

When Benefis was informed of the lawsuit, they were expected to keep and file all correspondence relating to the case. But now, attorneys for the Back family allege not only did Benefis not hand over important evidence, they destroyed it. And now there's an email to prove it.

The email in question is from September 11th, 2014, in which athletic trainer Jessica Hansen tells Belt football coach Jeff Graham, Robert Back is
ok to play concussion wise.

Despite the email coming from Hansen, a Benefis employee, Benefis never turned the email in as evidence. It wasn't until legal counsel for the Back family produced the email last year, with help from the Belt School District, that it came to light Hansen explicitly said Robert was okay to play from a concussion standpoint.

Court documents lay out Benefis' reasoning,  being that they only conducted a search limited to emails containing  Robert Back. Thats how the email slipped through the cracks. In turn, attorneys for Benefis are questioning the Back family saying if they knew about the email all along, why didn't *they bring it forward to submit as evidence?

And that's not all
Back's attorneys also claim there could be a number of unknown emails, texts, and messages regarding the events leading up to Back's injury, which now, we will never know.

As of December 2017, Back's attorneys are requesting sanctions against Benefis relating to the
Spoliation of Evidence.  Judge John Kutzman has yet to make a decision on those sanctions.  Trial is scheduled for March 5.


Correction, Jan. 15th, 2017: A previous version of this article stated Shannon Back produced the email in which Hansen stated Robert was “ok concussion wise.” While the details of the email and its discovery were outlined in Mrs. Back’s discovery response, Shannon Back herself never personally knew of or saw the email until it was presented by her legal counsel, with help from the Belt School District’s legal counsel.

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