Robert Jones, an Orlando man was injured when he slipped and fell on puddle of water in an aisle across from the customer service desk at his local Publix Super Market. Shortly after the fall, he hired a slip and fall lawyer who requested that Publix provide the name and address of any witness to the accident and a copy of the in-store surveillance video.
Publix responded by naming just one witness, “Ivan Martinez” and stated his address was “unknown.” Years later, as their grocery story injury case neared trial, Publix finally disclosed the last known address of Mr. Martinez. It turns out that he had lived at the same address for years. However, by the time he was finally deposed, he had little memory of Mr. Jones or his fall.
Mr. Jones’ lawyer also requested a copy of the video surveillance tape of the incident. Publix responded that no tape existed, even though there was documentation that indicated that there had been a videotape that captured the entire event at one time.
I am a Florida lawyer who sues Publix and other grocery stores and shopping malls on behalf of many people who have been hurt in slip and fall accidents. I believe that the apparent lack of a video of a fall that allegedly happened in front of the customer service desk is very suspicious.
Notwithstanding Publix’s failure to provide key information and evidence to Mr. Jones, the case went to trial. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Publix. Mr. Jones and his wife appealed to the 5th District Court of Appeal in Orange County. The Appellate Court in Jones v. Publix Super Markets, was not amused with Publix or their attorney’s tactics. The Court ordered a new trial and recommended that the trial court sanction Publix’s attorney for withholding key evidence. In addition, the Court ordered that the defense lawyer be referred to the Florida Bar for an ethical investigation.
Plaintiffs or claimants are often subjected to sanctions for legal misconduct such as failing to disclose prior accidents or medical care. Rarely are defendants, especially corporate giants like Publix Super Markets, held to the same standards. As a Broward lawyer who sues shopping malls for accidents, I am pleased to see that the Fifth District Court of Appeal’s opinion and hope that it discourages others from willfully hiding evidence or facts in discovery and trial.