A ruling in Suffolk Superior Court on a slip and fall case, Rivera v. Demoulas Super Markets, Inc., has set precedent that provides additional protection for those whose injuries have been caught on camera. In today’s economy, many retail stores use video surveillance to monitor theft and keep a close eye on employees. An extra benefit from this surveillance is that many times when individuals are injured in the store, it is caught on camera. Unfortunately, if you are an injured person attempting to retrieve the video surveillance of your injuries, the store is apt to deny your request. You will likely be forced to file a lawsuit in order to see the surveillance. Even then, A store owner may advise you, and the court, that they no longer have the video tape, because they automatically tape over them at the end of the month. Such is the case in Rivera v. Demoulas. A person was injured at a supermarket due to leaking water. When it came to trial, Demoulas advised the court that the surveillance tape had been taped over. A judge ruled that plaintiff’s counsel was allowed to admit evidence of the destruction of the surveillance and instruct the jury that they may, if they wish, infer from the destruction of the surveillance, that it contained evidence that would harm Demoulas’ case. The reasoning being that, as a business owner, after someone was injured on your premises, you knew or reasonably should have known that the surveillance of the incident would be relevant to possible legal action, and therefore you have a duty to preserve it. The legal term for failing to properly preserve evidence in a trial is called spoliation of evidence.
This ruling gives plaintiff’s attorneys in Massachusetts a little more ammunition in their trials against negligent retailers and product manufacturers who try and trick judges and juries into thinking that they “accidentally” destroyed what may have been crucial evidence in the case.
If you or someone you know has been injured and you think it was the result of negligence, medical malpractice or product liability, please give our firm a call at (617) 263-0060.