Case Example: Slip and Fall on Premises Under Video Surveillance

See how security cameras can help your injury claim. This case example uses surveillance video to prove the property owner’s liability for a slip and fall.

Here we follow a fictional injury victim named Julie as she seeks fair compensation for a slip and fall injury that occurred in a busy shopping center.

This fictional case study is based on fact patterns from actual slip and fall injury claims.

We’ll discuss how the slip and fall happened, the victim’s damages, the property owner’s liability, and the final claim resolution.

We leave you with a list of important points you should know about premises liability in slip and fall claims.

How the Slip and Fall Occurred

Julie went to a busy shopping center the week before Christmas. The place was noisy and full of rushing shoppers.

Julie had completed her shopping and took the escalator down to the food court for some hot cider before heading home.

As she exited the escalator, Julie suddenly slipped and fell forward. She had bags in her left hand and tried to brace herself with her right hand as she hit the ground.

After the fall, Julie felt immediate pain in her right hand and was unable to get up. Concerned shoppers alerted store security. The security guard helped Julie to her feet. Her shoes and clothes were wet and stained from a spilled soft drink that had caused her fall.

Julie’s wrist was hurting badly enough that she decided to call her husband to come and get her. The security guard offered to call an ambulance, but Julie declined. She was wet, embarrassed, and in pain. She just wanted to go home.

Injuries and Damages from the Fall

Julie didn’t realize that she broke her wrist in the fall and bruised her pelvis. The security guard stayed with her until her husband arrived to take her home.

Julie told her husband she didn’t want to sit in a waiting room at urgent care. If her wrist still hurt in the morning, she’d call their family doctor. They went home, and her husband heated some soup for dinner.

Thinking she just had a bad sprain, Julie wrapped her wrist with an elastic bandage, took some over-the-counter pain relievers, and went to bed. She regretted that decision at 2:00 a.m. the following morning when she awoke in excruciating pain.

Her husband drove her to the emergency room, where x-rays revealed a badly broken wrist. Julie was given pain medication and scheduled for surgery four days later.

Two days before Christmas, Julie had outpatient surgery to repair her broken wrist. Despite medication, she was in significant pain for several days. Julie needed help with bathing, dressing, and hair care. She was unable to prepare food for herself, much less cook and serve a holiday dinner for her family.

Julie was in a cast for six weeks. She missed four full weeks of work as an office manager for a busy construction company.

With her husband’s help, Julie sent a notification letter to the shopping center’s insurance company to let them know she intended to seek compensation for her injuries. She was shocked to get a reply letter refusing to accept her injury claim. The insurance company asserted that the shopping center did nothing wrong; therefore, it was not responsible for her fall.

Julie immediately retained an experienced personal injury attorney to handle her claim.

Julie had medical bills totaling $8,500 and lost wages of $2,800. Accounting for Julie’s pain and suffering, her attorney valued her injury claim at $45,000.

Property Owner Liability

Property owners are legally obligated to make regular inspections of the property, correct hazards and warn others of the hazards they are unable to repair immediately.

When a property owner fails in their duty to keep the property safe, they become negligent. If their negligence causes someone to be harmed, then the property owner is liable, meaning responsible for the injured person’s damages.

The shopping center’s insurance company believed their client wasn’t responsible for Julie’s damages.

Since the burden to prove liability falls on the injury victim, Julie’s attorney wasted no time gathering critical evidence to support Julie’s case. Through the litigation discovery process, her attorney gathered witness testimony, requested copies of maintenance records, and security camera footage.

The surveillance camera revealed that a careless shopper dropped a super-sized drink on the floor. The drink leaked from the cup, causing a pool of soda to develop at the foot of the escalator.

Timestamps on the video footage revealed that the drink was pooled at the bottom of the escalator for two hours before Julie fell. Furthermore, no shopping center employees were seen inspecting the area, cleaning it, or setting out a wet floor sign to warn shoppers of the spill.

The surveillance footage provided compelling photographic evidence that the property owner breached their duty to customers and was therefore liable for Julie’s injuries.

When a property owner or manager breaches their duty by failing to reasonably inspect their premises, repair hazards, or warn of dangers, and such breach is the actual and proximate cause of harm to a customer, they are liable under the theory of premises liability.

Slip and Fall Claim Settlement

The insurance company changed their position and accepted liability once a lawsuit was filed. They were ready to negotiate after they had to hand over the shopping center’s camera footage. The last thing they wanted was for a jury to see the surveillance video.

The adjuster used every tactic to minimize Julie’s claim, including starting with a ridiculously low settlement offer, and suggesting that Julie’s age made her bones more brittle.

Injury settlements require some give and take from both sides. However, Julie’s attorney knew the surveillance camera footage was persuasive evidence, and the insurance company wanted to protect the shopping center’s reputation.

After a few rounds of negotiation, Julie’s claim settled out of court for $42,000.

Important Points About Premises Liability

  • Seek prompt medical attention after a slip and fall injury. A delay might jeopardize your claim.
  • The injured party bears the burden of proving the property owner’s liability for the accident.
  • The premises owner is negligent when they knew or should have known of a hazard and failed to take reasonable precautions.
  • When handling your own claim, include spoliation language in your notification letter to prevent the destruction of crucial evidence.
  • Commercial property owners won’t hand over surveillance camera footage without a subpoena or court order.
  • There can be more than one party at fault in a slip and fall case, like the property owner and the property management company.

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>