The North Carolina Supreme Court recognizes a permissive, rather than mandatory adverse inference may be drawn against a spoliator of evidence. McLain v. Taco Bell Corp., 137 N.C. App. 179, 182-192, 527 S.E.2d 712, 715 – 721 (N.C. App. 2000). “*T+o qualify for the adverse inference, the party requesting it must ordinarily show that the spoliator was on notice of the claim or potential claim at the time of the destruction.” McLain, 137 N.C. App. at 187, 527 S.E.2d at 718 (quotation omitted). The obligation to preserve evidence may arise prior to the filing of a complaint where the opposing party is on notice that litigation is likely to be commenced. Id. The evidence lost must be “pertinent” and “potentially supportive of plaintiff’s allegations.” Id. at 188, 527 S.E.2d at 718.
Finally, “*t+he proponent of a missing document inference need not offer direct evidence of a cover-up to set the stage for the adverse inference. Circumstantial evidence will suffice.”
Id. at 186, 527 S.E.2d at 718; Arndt v. First Union Nat. Bank
, 613 S.E.2d 274, 281-283 (N.C. App. 2005).