Case Caption: Velma Samuel v. United Corporation d/b/a Plaza ExtraCase Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2015-0026Date: 05/02/2016Author: Cabret, Maria M. Citation: Summary:

Considering an appeal from a jury verdict finding that the defendant owner and operator of a grocery store was not liable for a slip-and-fall injury sustained by the plaintiff, the Superior Court erred in denying plaintiff's motion for a spoliation of evidence inference at trial. The defendant failed to preserve a reasonable portion of surveillance footage from before the fall as required by Bright v. United Corp., 50 V.I. 215 (V.I. 2008). Here, the defendant only retained 1 minute and 21 seconds of footage before plaintiff's fall. Since there is no evidence in this case of actual notice, the video surveillance footage in question was the only evidence that would have established whether defendant had constructive notice of the spill that caused plaintiff's fall-either by showing how long the spill had been on the floor, or by showing how long that area of the store had gone without being inspected by a store employee. Retaining only 1 minute and 21 seconds of footage unquestionably fails to comply with the requirement to preserve video footage for a reasonable period of time preceding and following an accident. Deletion of the relevant surveillance footage after it was reviewed by the store manager is enough to indicate the defendant's bad faith and fraudulent intent to suppress the truth, thus warranting a spoilation inference. In addition, addressing issues that are likely to recur on remand, the Superior Court's orders excluding plaintiff's proposed expert testimony are vacated, and the Superior Court must conduct a hearing on the admissibility of the testimony of such expert witnesses. In addition, the Superior Court must hold the trial with a six-member jury empaneled as required by 4 V.I.C. § 80. The Superior Court's judgment is reversed and the case is remanded for a new trial.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion