Surveillance Footage in a North Carolina Slip and Fall

grocery store`Slip and falls are common in retail stores, but these cases can be hard to prove in North Carolina and elsewhere. Among other things, an injured plaintiff needs to establish that the property owner breached its duty to keep the store free from hazards and that either the hazard was created by the store, the store had actual notice of the hazard, or the store had constructive notice of the hazard.

Usually, constructive notice is established by showing a substance was on the floor of the store for long enough that in the course of exercising reasonable care, the storeowner should have discovered it.

In some cases, surveillance footage can be used to establish the amount of time a substance was on the floor or how the substance came to be on the floor. Sometimes surveillance can be powerful evidence to convince a jury of constructive notice. However, as part of its business practices, the court may erase and reuse old surveillance footage. Therefore, it is critical to contact an attorney as soon as possible after a slip and fall so that evidence can be preserved. It can also be helpful to take pictures that can be used as evidence of the dangerous condition.

In Redd v. Wilcohess, a North Carolina plaintiff argued that the trial court should have submitted the surveillance video of a slip and fall to the jury. She argued that N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-181.2 applied to the case. This law requires that jurors who need to review a certain piece of evidence should be taken to the courtroom, and the court may permit the jury to reexamine the trial exhibit (such as surveillance footage) in open court. The court can allow a jury that asks to take the video into the jury room after the parties have a chance to be heard on the issue of bringing the video into the jury room.

The appellate court had previously provided the opinion that there was no error in the trial court not permitting the trial exhibit to be present in the jury room, since both parties hadn’t consented. The plaintiff moved to reconsider. The appellate court explained that in this case, at the end of the first day of jury deliberations, the foreperson had asked that the surveillance footage be shown to the jury. The court said it would do this in the morning.

However, the next morning, the attorney for the defendants wasn’t there in the morning, and the trial court sent the jury to deliberate further. The jury again asked to view the video. The court discussed this with the attorneys. However, before the trial court finished this hearing, the jury said they had reached a verdict and didn’t want to see the video. The foreperson told the court that they had deliberated further and didn’t need to see it.

The appellate court explained that the parties had conducted a long discussion during the hearing about how they would prefer for the jury to watch the surveillance footage. Since the jury withdrew its request, however, there was no basis to apply N.C. Gen.Stat. § 1-181.2, related to the viewing of the videotape by the jury.

If you were hurt in a slip and fall in a retail store, the experienced premises liability attorneys at Maurer Law may be able to help you recover compensation. Contact us at 919-229-8359 or via our online form.

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