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How Store Surveillance Footage Can Defeat Your Personal Injury Claim


When it comes to personal injury cases, a picture can be worth a thousand words. That is to say, visual evidence is typically more persuasive than oral argument. This can prove to be a double-edged sword for injury victims who allege an accident occurred one way–yet video evidence produced by the defense suggests a different chain of events.

Appeals Court Accepts Video Evidence Blaming Toddler for Accident

Consider this recent decision from the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Jones v. Public Supermarket, Inc. This is a slip-and-fall case. The plaintiff was shopping at a Publix in Davidson County. As she turned the corner to move into another aisle, she slipped and fell due to a “liquid that was present on the floor.” A store manager approached the plaintiff a few minutes later and asked if she wanted to file a formal incident report. The plaintiff declined at the time, but returned the next day to make such a report.

The plaintiff later sued Publix for injuries she sustained in the fall. Before the trial court, Publix produced store surveillance camera footage that captured the accident. The footage showed that about two minutes before the plaintiff’s fall, a toddler in the same area briefly dropped a sippy cup. Publix argued that was the likely cause of the spill that led to the plaintiff’s accident. More to the point, Publix argued that given the time frame, it did not have “constructive notice” of the spill and therefore could not be held liable for the plaintiff’s fall under Tennessee law.

The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment to Publix. The Court of Appeals affirmed. It rejected the plaintiff’s alternate theory for the accident. According to the plaintiff, the substance she slipped on was “oily” rather than water-based. That would not be consistent with the contents of a toddler’s sippy cup, as toddlers do not typically drink oil, the plaintiff argued.

The problem, the Court of Appeals, was the plaintiff presented no evidence to establish what the oily substance was, or that it had “been on the floor for a sufficient time to charge Publix with constructive notice of it.” When a store owner lacks actual knowledge of a hazardous condition, the injured plaintiff must show “constructive notice,” i.e., that the store should have found the hazard through the exercise of reasonable care. Here, the video surveillance footage managed to exonerate Publix, as it showed a likely cause for the spill and that there was not enough time for Publix to have reasonably acted.

Speak with a Tennessee Personal Injury Lawyer Today

If you are injured in any kind of accident, it is critical to gather as much information as possible about what happened. In cases like the one above, you should immediately report any accident to store management. And you should not hesitate to consult with an experienced Clinton personal injury lawyer if you have any questions about your legal rights. Contact the offices of Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, if you need to speak with an attorney today.




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