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Defense Verdict in Parking Lot Slip and Fall Case Affirmed by Massachusetts Appeals Court

In a Cape Cod premises liability case, evidence regarding the accident scene can be crucially important. Without photographs or video surveillance of the place where the accident happened, it can be difficult for the plaintiff to convince the jury that the landowner was negligent in creating the dangerous condition that caused the accident or, if a third party caused the situation, in allowing the condition to persist past the time that a reasonable property owner would have noticed and corrected the issue(s).

Of course, not every piece of evidence is as reliable as it might first appear. There is technology available that can alter the appearance of both photographs and videos, a fact to which anyone who has skimmed through a fashion magazine can attest.

The case described below dealt with a situation in which the image shown in the photograph was real; it accurately reflected the scene at the time it was taken. However, there may have been a discrepancy regarding when the party offering the photographs into evidence said the picture was taken and when it was actually taken.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent (unreported) case was a woman who was hurt after she allegedly slipped and fell on black ice as she was attempting to get control of her dog in the parking lot of a veterinarian’s office. She sued the defendants, the veterinary clinic and the family realty trust that owned the property, alleging that their negligence contributed to her injuries. Prior to trial, the plaintiff filed an emergency motion to continue the trial because a “new so-called rebuttal expert” could not be present on the scheduled trial date. The expert in question was to be called to testify regarding certain discrepancies in the metadata field (particularly the date and time) of photographs that the defendants claimed represented the accident scene.

The trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion, and the case was tried to a jury. The jury determined that the clinic was not negligent and that, although the trust was negligent, its negligence was not a substantial contributing factor to the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff sought appellate review.

Resolution on Appeal

The Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the lower court’s entry of judgment upon the jury’s verdict in favor of the defendants. Although the plaintiff argued on appeal that the lower tribunal had erred in denying her motion for a continuance and in excluding evidence from her proposed expert (which she maintained would have shown spoliation), the reviewing court found no cause to disturb the ruling. In so holding, the appellate court pointed out that the plaintiff’s motion to continue did not claim spoliation, fraud on the court, or perjury, all of which she relied upon in seeking a reversal of the defense verdict.

Furthermore, the plaintiff did not object to the admission of the photographs about which her expert would have testified had there been a continuance, and she was the first party to affirmatively use the photos at trial. Under these circumstances, the plaintiff was found to have waived the arguments that she attempted to advance at trial.

To Speak to an Injury Lawyer in Cape Cod

A slip and fall accident in a parking lot or elsewhere can result in permanent disability, extensive medical costs, and a great amount of pain and suffering to the affected individual. If you have questions about getting started on a premises liability lawsuit to hold the responsible party liable in such a situation, please contact the Law Offices of John C. Manoog III at 888-262-6664. If you have any photographs of the accident scene or information about possible witnesses, please have this potential evidence available when you meet with an attorney about your case.

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