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Philadelphia Jury Renders $1.64 Million Verdict in Trip-and-Fall Case with Apparent Video Evidence Spoliation

April 21, 2016

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We already know that Philadelphia juries tend to be plaintiff-friendly in personal injury cases. What we have recently learned from <a href=";curindex=25&amp;slreturn=20160320190246"><em>Allison v. Forest City Enterprises</em> </a>is that Philadelphia juries can be $1.64 million-friendly when you couple an ordinary trip-and-fall with video spoliation.
On May 17, 2013, the plaintiff tripped and fell on an allegedly defective metal grate on the sidewalk in front of a building in center city Philadelphia. The plaintiff claimed he injured his left arm in the fall, which allegedly led to $1.25 million in multiple surgeries and hospital visits, as well as a total of 70 days in the hospital. Defense argued that the grate was not a dangerous condition, and that any danger was <em>de minimus</em>.
At deposition, a defense witness testified that there was no video surveillance system in place at the time and location of plaintiff’s accident. Subsequent evidentiary developments revealed that this was false; there <em>was</em> in fact a video surveillance system in place. The defense witness amended her testimony in a subsequent deposition, stating that (a) there <em>was</em> video surveillance footage, but she “believed” it was erased after 30 days; (b) she ignored the plaintiff’s spoliation letter since she received it 30 days after the plaintiff’s fall; and (c) she had no knowledge as to how the video surveillance videos for the building were saved or accessed. The spoliation evidence was permitted to be introduced at trial.
The jury deliberated for a full 6 days and ultimately found the defendant building owner 90 percent negligent while finding the plaintiff only 10 percent negligent. Of the $1.64 million award, the jury allocated $1.27 million for past medical expenses, $250,000 for future medical expenses, and $120,000 for pain and suffering.
Plaintiff’s unusually high medical bills likely played a significant role in this seemingly excessive verdict. But – the lesson is that perceived foul-play of a corporate defendant in the discovery process can turn a defensible case into a verdict nightmare.
Thanks to Rachel Freedman for her contribution to this post.


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