Panama City Federal Court Orders Department Store to Share Evidence in Slip and Fall Case: Sowell v. Target Corp.

A federal court in Florida has refused to allow a department store to claim surveillance video footage of an individual’s slip and fall while on company property was protected from disclosure by the work product privilege. In Sowell v. Target Corp., a woman was purportedly hurt when she fell inside of a chain department store. Following her injury accident, the woman filed a lawsuit against the business and sought a digital copy of the store’s video footage of the incident as part of a discovery request. According to the retailer, all video footage at the company’s chain of stores is erased in the ordinary course of business after a limited time period. Instead of erasing the video, the store saved a copy of the woman’s fall after she reported it. Because of this, the store alleged that the video was prepared in anticipation of litigation and should not be entered into evidence due to the work product privilege.

Although items prepared for litigation in Florida are normally protected under the work product doctrine, anything created in the ordinary course of business is ordinarily discoverable in a lawsuit. According to the Northern District of Florida, the store’s surveillance videotape was not only responsive to the woman’s discovery request, it was created as a part of the chain’s routine business practice of monitoring employees and customers for theft and other potential issues.

Additionally, the court held that the business failed to demonstrate the video was created for any other reason or offer a valid justification for withholding it. Finally, the Florida federal court stated a delay in producing the video might place the injured woman at a disadvantage if store employees were deposed after reviewing the slip and fall tape. Since the department store’s video evidence of the woman’s injury accident was not privileged and withholding surveillance footage of the incident from her might place the woman at a disadvantage at trial, the Northern District of Florida ordered the business to share the film.

In Florida, a business owner owes a legal duty to an invitee such as the woman who fell. This means a property owner operating a department or other store must use reasonable care to ensure the property is safely maintained and warn customers and others who are legally visiting the property about any hazards the owner knows about or should have knowledge of. Unfortunately, too many companies work hard to avoid fairly compensating individuals who sustained a legitimate injury through no fault of their own while patronizing a store.

If you were hurt in a slip and fall accident at a Miami store or other business, the practiced lawyers at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. may be able to help. Please contact us through our website or give us a call today at (305) 448-8585.

Additional Resources:

Sowell v. Target Corp., Dist. Court, ND Florida 2014

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