How Can Video Evidence Help in a Personal Injury Case?
In a personal injury lawsuit, any available piece of evidence may prove critical in proving a plaintiff’s case. Or at the very least, such evidence may prevent a lawsuit from being dismissed before it has a chance to reach a jury. That is why if it is critical to pay attention to every detail of a personal injury claim.
Surveillance Video Helps Preserve Claim Against Store
For example, in an ongoing personal injury lawsuit from Tennessee, a federal appeals court recently cited a single critical piece of evidence in ruling the case should be tried before a jury. The underlying lawsuit is one of the more common types of personal injury cases: a slip-and-fall accident. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, she was walking down the aisle of a store in Antioch, Tennessee, when she “slipped and fell on a puddle of water.” She subsequently sued the store’s owner in federal court. (While personal injury cases are normally tried in state court, if the defendant is an out-of-state company, it can be tried in federal court under Tennessee law.)
A slip-and-fall claim falls under a broad class of civil torts known as “premises liability,” that is the responsibility of a property owner for hazardous conditions on said property. Under Tennessee law, a plaintiff alleging premises liability must show the property owner whether caused the hazardous condition or had “actual or constructive notice that the condition existed prior to the accident.” In plainer terms, if you slip on a puddle of water in a store, you have to prove store management knew that puddle was there—or should have known it was there—before you fell.
This is often impossible to prove. However, in this case, the store had security cameras which captured surveillance footage of the aisle where the accident took place. This footage showed a store employee walking down the same aisle as the plaintiff did a few minutes before the accident. And while there was no footage of the accident itself, the store did preserve the preceding hour of footage of that aisle.
Before the trial court, the plaintiff argued the store had “constructive notice” of the puddle based on the fact the employee walked down the aisle just before the accident. The store argued the footage was inconclusive and the puddle was created after the employee walked by. The store moved for summary judgment, which the trial court denied. The store then appealed that denial to the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a January 4, 2016, decision, the Sixth Circuit upheld the trial court’s ruling, which allows the plaintiff to proceed to a jury trial. The appeals court said the plaintiff “probably would not have a case without the surveillance video.” That said, the video “far from makes her case,” the court said, noting its “visual quality is not sufficient to determine whether there was any water on the floor during the hour before the fall.” However, the video quality was not so poor as to preclude a jury from determining “that the puddle was pre-existing” and that the store should have known about it. Ultimately that is a call for the jury.
Contact a Tennessee Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have been injured due to the fault of another, it is important you work with an experienced Tennessee personal injury lawyer who will work to make sure no piece of potentially important evidence is overlooked. Contact the offices of Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, Attorneys at Law, in Clinton or Knoxville if you would like to speak with someone about your case right away.