Apple & Samsung Reach Deal to Hide Evidence Spoliation from Jury

Apple Samsung Destroy Evidence

Following Monday morning’s news that the jury in the Apple and Samsung patent infringement trial would be informed prior to deliberations that both parties were guilty of destroying evidence, a new order, signed late Monday, will now prevent the jury from hearing anything regarding the matter, CNET reports. In a rare sign of cooperation between the two mobile device giants, attorneys from both sides reportedly negotiated the agreement at the last minute and Judge Lucy Koh, the trial’s presiding judge, approved it.

The issue over the spoliation of evidence began in late July, when a magistrate judge ruled that the jury would be informed that Samsung destroyed evidence relevant to the case before the trial, and that the jury was free to infer that all of the evidence that was destroyed was damaging to Samsung’s case.

Samsung responded by requesting that the jury be given a similar instruction that Apple destroyed evidence prior to the trial, as well. While there is some indication that Apple did indeed destroy evidence, including a surprising dearth of email evidence from Steve Jobs and other Apple executives on issues relevant to the trial, the judge ruled that the circumstances were not enough to grant Samsung’s request.

In a surprising move, Judge Koh overruled the magistrate judge’s decision late Sunday, and ordered that the jury would be informed that both sides destroyed evidence. Facing the possibility that the jury would be now prejudiced against Apple’s case on the merits, because the company would be seen as acting in bad faith too, its attorneys moved quickly to settle the matter with Samsung.

In American litigation, attorneys from both parties are free to submit proposals for the instructions that the jury will hear before it deliberates. The adverse party can object to proposed instructions and the judge will rule on which instructions will be read. In this case, both Apple and Samsung had originally requested the jury instruction against the other, and Judge Koh eventually approved both on Sunday.

Rather than face the possibility of having the credibility of both companies called into question, Apple and Samsung agreed that it was best to drop the matter entirely.

The patent trial between the two most important mobile device companies has been damaging to both sides as a multitude of confidential information has been dragged before the public. While the end of a trial is usually a relief for the parties involved, the complex nature of the issues in dispute and the stakes of the jury’s decision has the entire mobile device industry holding its breath.

Closing arguments for both sides are scheduled today, followed by jury instructions (omitting the evidence issue) and deliberations, which may last for several days considering the complexity of the accusations.

The only certainty that remains, regardless of the jury’s eventual determination, is that the lawyers from both sides will make a lot more money during the inevitable appeals.

Teaser graphic via Shutterstock.