Jul 21, 2017 Last Updated 8:00 PM, Jun 27, 2017

Deleted Surveillance Video Affects Slip and Fall Court Case

Published in GODSEYMARTIN.COM

Slip-and-fall cases happen more often than one may think. When one does slip and fall at a store or an apartment complex, it is important to see a doctor and file an incident report even if you do not believe that you are immediately hurt; one can never be sure what injuries may present themselves a few days down the road. 

Delayed Reaction

On September 2, 2004, Jerry Aldridge slipped and fell near a display table at a Brookshire Brothers grocery store. At the time of the fall, Mr. Aldridge did not tell store employees that he was injured, and the store did not investigate the fall or complete an incident report. However, about an hour-and-a-half after leaving the store, Mr. Aldridge went to the emergency room because of pain.

On September 7, Mr. Aldridge returned to the store and reported his injuries. Jon Tyler, a store manager trainee, prepared an incident report based on Mr. Aldridge’s statements and the recollections of the assistant manager who was on duty at the time of the fall. The incident report stated that, "Aldridge slipped on grease that had leaked out of a container by the `Grab N Go.'" The Grab-N-Go, which features several rotisserie chickens that were cooked and packaged in the store's deli, was located approximately fifteen feet from the area of the fall.

Caught on Video 

Mr. Aldridge’s fall was captured by a surveillance camera mounted near the check-out counters. Because of the camera's placement, the floor where Aldridge fell was in the background and was obscured by a display table which was covered with a cloth that extended to the floor.

At the time of the fall, the cameras recorded surveillance video in a continuous loop that, after approximately thirty days, recorded over prior events. After Mr. Aldridge reported his injuries to Brookshire Brothers, Robert Gilmer, Brookshire Brothers' Vice President of Human Resources and Risk Management, decided to retain and copy approximately eight minutes of the video, starting just before Mr. Aldridge entered the store and concluding shortly after his fall.

Mr. Aldridge learned that Brookshire Brothers possessed video footage of the incident and, on September 13, asked the claims department for a copy so he could see his fall. Gilmer testified that he instructed the claims department not to provide the tape to Aldridge, as Gilmer believed it would be improper. The claims department wrote Aldridge a letter on September 29 stating that there was only one copy of the video at that time and that it therefore could not provide him with a copy. The camera presumably recorded over the September 2 footage by early October.

Are You Sure You Want to Delete this File?

Brookshire Brothers initially paid Mr. Aldridge’s medical expenses,[1] but ceased paying by June 2005, when Gilmer wrote Mr. Aldridge a letter stating that he had reviewed the video and determined that Brookshire Brothers was going to deny responsibility.

In August 2005, Mr. Aldridge’s attorney sent Brookshire Brothers a letter requesting approximately two-and-a-half hours of additional footage from the store cameras. Brookshire Brothers was unable to comply with that request because the footage had been recorded over almost a year earlier.

Off to Trial

The exact area of the floor where Mr. Aldridge fell was obscured by a table in the video footage that was preserved, but the video does not appear to show a spill or leak occurring during the seven minutes before the fall. Tyler testified that substances reasonably should not remain on the floor of the store for longer than five minutes without being noticed and cleaned up. The video showed store employees walking past the area approximately three minutes and five minutes before Mr. Aldridge fell.

It also showed an employee signaling for help to clean up the spill right before the video ended, suggesting the spill was too large to be cleaned with paper towels alone. This evidence, even without the spoliation instruction, amounts to more than a scintilla favoring a finding that Brookshire Brothers had constructive notice of the condition.

The jury returned a verdict of $1,063, 644.99 to Mr. Aldridge for past and future medical bills as well as past and future lost wages. A court of appeals would uphold the jury’s verdict. [2]

A Higher Ruling

The Texas Supreme Court held  that the trial court abused its discretion in submitting a spoliation instruction because there is no evidence that Brookshire Brothers intentionally concealed or destroyed the video in question or that Mr. Aldridge was deprived of any meaningful ability to present his claim to the jury at trial.

Accordingly, they reversed the court of appeals' initial judgment and remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial in accordance with this opinion.

Contact an Attorney with Experience

If you have been injured after a slip-and-fall due to a property owner's negligence , you need an attorney who understands how premises liability cases work.

Contact the experienced team at Godsey Martin today for any questions you may have. You may reach us at by phone at 877-IGOTHIT or you can fill out the online contact form for a free evaluation of your case.

Don’t wait another minute; let Godsey Martin get you the justice and compensation you deserve!

Brian Mincher

“I have tried over 100 jury trials in my 15+ year career, spending over a decade defending cases for insurance companies, so I know their tricks better than most. In my spare time, I enjoy physical fitness and the outdoors in all its forms - from boating and hiking to hunting and fishing. I have been a competitive marksman in several different disciplines since childhood. I’ve also been a state record holder in Oklahoma in power lifting and was the three time Oklahoma Karate Association divisional champion back in the 1990’s during my college years. I am married and have 3 children.”

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