When you’re injured in a pedestrian accident, there are certain hurdles you expect to have to clear. You have to amass your evidence, and you have to be prepared to debunk your opponent’s defenses. What you may not necessarily be prepared to handle is a situation in which important proof in your case is lost due to the actions or inaction of your opponent. This is one of the many ways that a knowledgeable New York pedestrian accident attorney can help – by having the experience you need to be equipped for the unexpected.
Chava was a plaintiff who encountered such a problem. Her case arose after an event outside an auto body shop in Brooklyn. Chava was walking along the sidewalk when a vehicle allegedly ran into her. She sued the owner of the vehicle and the auto body shop (whose employee was driving the vehicle when the incident happened) for the injuries she alleged she suffered. Chava’s case argued that, as a sidewalk pedestrian, she had the right of way, that the driver violated the law by failing to yield the right of way, and that, since she had the right of way, she was completely free of blame.
The defense’s argument was that the pedestrian was actually 100% to blame for any collision that occurred. The defense, using an affidavit from an officer of the auto body business, claimed that a security video camera captured footage showing the pedestrian standing to the side of the vehicle and then sitting down next to it so that the vehicle’s tire would run over her toes as it backed up.
The pedestrian acted promptly to pursue her rights. In fact, the auto body shop received notice of the pedestrian’s impending lawsuit only two days after the incident. Nevertheless, the auto body business did nothing to make sure that the security video footage was not lost, and, eventually, it was erased. Obviously, this video footage could have been an important part of this case. With it lost, the pedestrian lost the chance either to debunk the defense’s theory of what it showed or to use it to her advantage.
Chava filed a request with the trial court asking the judge to sanction (or penalize) the defense for what’s called in the law “spoliation of evidence.” Spoliation is a word that means to ruin or destroy. Spoliation of evidence in a court case happens when one party alters or destroys relevant evidence. Whether the destruction was intentional, reckless, or just plain negligent doesn’t matter. All three types of spoliation allow a court to penalize the destroying party.
If your opponent destroys evidence, all the law requires you to show is that spoliation took place. In other words, you have to prove that key evidence was destroyed and that the offending party had “knowledge of a reasonable likelihood of litigation regarding the incident, and the highly relevant nature of the video evidence to that litigation.”
In Chava’s case, the auto shop had knowledge a lawsuit was impending. The video footage’s relevance to the pedestrian’s case was obvious, yet the shop still allowed the footage to be erased. This, the Appellate Division ruled, clearly constituted spoliation.
When that happens, there are a variety of possible penalties the court can impose against your opponent. The harshest is throwing out the defense’s answer, which would eliminate all of its arguments in opposition to the assertions you made in your complaint. In this case, the court determined that the spoliation warranted a penalty that blocked the auto shop from making any arguments or references to the content of the video footage at any point in the trial. The defense could still argue that Chava “set up” her accident, but it couldn’t make any reference to security video in advancing that claim. This, of course, was a significant benefit to the pedestrian.
If you’ve been hurt as a pedestrian, you need skillful attorneys on your side representing your interests. The diligent Queens pedestrian accident attorneys at Newman, Anzalone & Newman have been helping injured pedestrians and others for many years. To schedule a free consultation with one of our qualified attorneys, contact us toll-free at 877-754-3099 or through our website.
More Blog Posts:
Accumulating the Evidence You Need to Win Your New York Pedestrian Injury Case, New York Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, Oct. 12, 2017
Overcoming Lost Records To Win Your New York Accident Case in Spite of Missing Evidence, New York Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, June 16, 2017