Article by Samuel Evans and Brian Kane, Esq.
A Pennsylvania federal judge recently sanctioned Burlington Stores for failing to preserve video evidence in a slip and fall case (Heagy v. Burlington Stores, Inc., No. CV 20-2447, 2023 WL 5751105 (E.D. Pa.). Within two weeks of the accident, Burlington received a letter from plaintiff’s counsel demanding the preservation of 48 hours of video evidence. Once notified of the impending lawsuit, Burlington had the duty to preserve relevant evidence, including any footage showing events causing slipping hazards. Even though Burlington had the requested video evidence at the time they received the letter, Burlington chose to “burn” all video evidence except the slip and fall itself. In doing so, the Court found Burlington’s decision to “burn” the video evidence amounted to the intentional destruction of evidence for the purpose of denying it to the other parties to the lawsuit. This action exposed Burlington to hefty sanctions.
A party who fails to preserve or destroy relevant evidence is subject to attorney’s fees, fines, and in the most severe circumstances, the granting of a judgment in favor of the opposing party. Because of their actions, Burlington now faces paying damages for the slip and fall injury, the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees, the attorney’s fees of the two additional co-defendants, and any additional fines the court deems proper.