I know this precedent exists in Japan but I'm curious if it exists in the USA in particular. Can you be sued for willfully deleting or destroying someone else's data?

Note: By "sued" I mean is there legal precedent for someone winning a case where they sued for damages for deleted or destroyed data and won.

The example I saw in Japan was walking up to someone's computer and shutting it off while they were using it, say an angry partner yanking the power-cord. That would be a sueable offence willfully destroying someone else's property. In this case the work they had not yet saved. If you destroy the computer itself (or the hard drive) you could be sued not just for the hardware but also for the value of its contents. You could imagine now-a-days with bitcoin wallets etc could be expensive although even in the past that could include photos, videos, digital art, etc that might be irreplaceable.

1 Answer 1


There is. It may make a difference whether the data is recoverable after being deleted.

ViChip Corp. v. Lee, 438 F. Supp. 2d 1087 (N.D. Cal. 2006) (https://www.courtlistener.com/opinion/2466542/vichip-corporation-v-lee/)

Also check out Int'l Airport Centers, L.L.C. v. Citrin, 440 F.3d 418 (7th Cir. 2006) (https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F3/440/418/477841/)

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