When a consumer is injured on a business property, evidence such as security footage can be invaluable for determining fault. The Texas Supreme Court recently issued a ruling on something called spoliation, which deals with the purposeful failure to keep relevant evidence after an accident. This ruling, which was made on July 3, further clarified the standards surrounding a court’s ability to rectify issues of spoliation in our state, including in a premises liability case. However, this ruling also reversed a decision concerning a slip and fall verdict that Jerry Aldridge — an ex-football player — won against a grocery store.
In 2004, Aldridge slipped on a greasy floor at Brookshire Brothers and was injured. He reported the incident and related injuries five days later, but the grocery store only saved a small amount of video footage from that day. The eight minutes of security footage that Brookshire Brothers did save simply showed the man walking into the grocery store and subsequently falling.
An additional two hours of video was requested, but the store said that it only saved the clip that was less than 10 minutes long. This resulted in a spoliation instruction that was ultimately given by the trial court to the jurors hearing the case. Without the video evidence, it was left up to them to determine if the store knew better than to scrap the security footage from that day. The jury answered that question in the affirmative, and Aldridge was later awarded $1 million.
However, the recent Texas Supreme Court ruling reversed that award, saying that there was no evidence that Brookshire Brothers intentionally deleted the remaining video footage in an effort to hide important evidence concerning the slip and fall incident. Without such, the Supreme Court ruled that the trial court did not properly exercise its discretion when it issued the spoliation instructions to the jury. Although the decision was reversed due to the apparently wrongfully issued spoliation instruction, Aldridge may still have options available to him to pursue his legal claim. Those injured in similar slip and fall accidents may benefit from seeking professional assistance in seeking to ensure that all relevant evidence of the accident is preserved for trial.
Source: bizjournals.com, “Texas Supreme court clarifies spoliation rules“, Kritika Kulshrestha, July 10, 2014