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Summary Judgment Granted Despite Destruction of Video Evidence

Posted on June 2nd, 2017

Destruction of Video EvidenceIn Taylor v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., d/b/a Rite-Aid, Case No. 16-00474 (D. Oregon, May 12, 2017), Plaintiff sued Defendant after  she slipped and fell in a large puddle while shopping in the Defendant drugstore. She testified that after she fell, someone placed cones around the spill and wet floor signs. Various other remedial measures allegedly occurred later in the day. The issue at hand was whether Defendant knew or should have known about the spill before the fall and whether any actions were taken. The store manager thought the spill was urine, although he could not determine whether it was dog or human. When he reviewed the security tapes from that day, he found that the cameras did not cover the spill area. Plaintiff filed suit, and after discovery, Defendant moved for summary judgment.

The court found that Plaintiff had presented insufficient evidence to show that Defendant knew about the spill. Plaintiff argued that Defendant’s failure to preserve was responsible for her lack of evidence and asked the court to deny summary judgment as a sanction for Defendant’s destruction of the security video. Plaintiff argued that the footage was relevant, even though the cameras were not aimed at the aisle with the spill, it would show when she entered and exited the store, and whether a dog had been in the store, and when the manager had gone to clean up the spill. She also argued that the footage would’ve shown a customer informing a cashier about the spill and pointing at the spill. Defendant argued it had no obligation to preserve the video because the video did not show the spill itself, and that even if it had preserved the video, they would not have contained any relevant evidence. Spoliation requires a finding of relevance to the affected party’s claims, and Defendant argued that the video would not have shown the origin of the liquid or when Defendant learned about it.

The court found that the video evidence was not required to show a timeline, as Plaintiff had already constructed one. Whether the video would have shown a customer informing Defendant of the spill was mere speculation. Plaintiff could not show that the evidence would prove that Defendant knew about the spill before she slipped in it. There was no showing that Defendant had destroyed video evidence in response to litigation, as it was deleted as part of the 37-day video deletion protocol that Defendant maintained at which time Defendant had no expectation of litigation.  Accordingly, the court declined to sanction Defendant and granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant.

ILS – Plaintiff eDiscovery Experts

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