So, you or a family member fell at a store: Publix, Piggly Wiggly, Whole Foods, Walmart, Sams, Costco – you name it. You were injured, and the store’s insurance representative or risk manager is telling you that it is the store’s policy not to release the video of the fall. Why?
In Alabama, if you fall in a store, the store is NOT automatically liable to you for the injuries. You must prove the store’s employees did something to cause your fall or failed to do something to prevent your fall within a reasonable time. For example, if a customer spills a coke on the floor, and five minutes later, you slip on the coke and fall and break your arm. The store is probably not going to be liable to you if a store’s employee did not know about the coke spill. However, if a customer spills a coke, and you slip and fall on it an hour later, the store had what’s called “constructive” notice of the spill, i.e.: it had been on the floor for such a length of time that the store employees should have seen it and cleaned it up.
In the latter event, the store might be liable to you. The reason for the “might” is that Alabama is a contributory negligence state, and that means that if you were one percent (1%) at fault, you cannot recover. So, the store could say that you should have seen the spill and avoided it, but that’s a whole other issue. In the example above, the video could either prove the case or avoid the whole thing. If the video shows the spill had not been there very long, a lawsuit would probably not be warranted. But, if the video shows an employee walk by the spill and fail to clean it up before your fall, it could prove your case.
The policy of not providing the video prior to a lawsuit simply encourages litigation. If the video exists, the case cannot be appropriately evaluated without the video, and the failure of the store to provide the video leads one to believe the store is hiding something. Attorneys are not in practice to file lawsuits they don’t think they can win, and therefore, if the video absolves the store of liability, the attorney is not likely to file a lawsuit. But, without the video, there is no choice.
So, the question remains, “why won’t the store provide the video?” Why do you think?