Using Video Surveillance to prove your case

Having begun my practice in the 20th century, I find it exciting that the 21st Century has given us great tools to prove our cases.  One of them is the use of video surveillance.

Recently I was able to force the hand of a supermarket that permitted a broken freezer to leak water on its floors, causing my client to slip & fall, suffering from horrific fractures requiring surgery.

The first thing I did was include in my claim letter to the supermarket a request to “preserve all video surveillance for one hour before and after the incident.” (“One hour before” is reasonable insofar as it may show how long the condition was present and satisfies the “notice” requirement).

Next, I continued to create a paper trail with the defendant and its carrier by requesting that “they do not destroy the video under threat of a spoilation charge at trial.”

Lastly, I made a motion to preclude when (of course) the defendants were unable to locate the video. (Caveat: A popular defense is that the videos are destroyed within days – At that point you should request a metadata inspection of their video digital storage to confirm this).

Ultimately, the defendant’s carrier requested mediation and he case was settled.

I have also used videos in auto cases (e.g., a camera in a gas station captured the entire event in one case, as well as a private homeowner’s camera which captured a pedestrian knockdown in a crosswalk).

I found this decision in a Supreme Queens Motion for Summary Judgement: 704557/2013, NYLJ 1202678163051  (Sup., QUEENS, Decided December 1, 2014)
Franco sought to recover damages for personal injuries she allegedly sustained resulting from a motor vehicle accident in which Palmer Jr. ran a red light and struck Franco’s vehicle broadside in this negligence action. She moved for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability, and for a trial on damages only. Franco stated videotape surveillance video from a nearby gas station depicted that Palmer ran the red light at a high rate of speed a few seconds after her light turned green, thus, he was the sole proximate cause of the accident, entitling Franco to partial summary judgment on liability. Palmer alleged the light was green and turned yellow as he was driving through the intersection. The court disagreed finding the video clearly belied Palmer’s testimony. It also stated the chain of custody of the tape was established by the gas station manager, thus was admissible. The court found the video showed Palmer violated Vehicle & Traffic Law §1111 by failing to stop at a red traffic light, and proceeded into the intersection and directly into Franco’s car, thus his negligence was the sole proximate cause of the subject accident. Hence, as Franco established she was free from any comparative negligence, she was entitled to partial summary judgment on the issue of liability.

Do you have any comments / ideas / suggestions to add onto this subject?