Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Senior Judge Thomson Addresses Spoliation Issue in Lackawanna County Slip and Fall Case

In his July 6, 2011 Opinion and Order in the Lackawanna County slip and fall case of Trently v. Giant Food Stores, LLC, No. 2008-CIV-3961 (Lacka. Co. July 6, 2011 Thomson, S.J.), Senior Judge Harold A. Thomson, Jr. denied the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment after finding genuine issues of material fact on the actual or constructive notice issue existed. 

The court also appeared to be influenced in its decision to deny the Defendant's motion given the Plaintiff's assertion of spoliation of evidence on the part of the Defendant given the possible failure of the defense to produce a surveillance videotape of the Plaintiff's incident.

Judge Thomson's Opinion gives a nice recitation of the current status of the law on the duties of store owners to its business invitees along with the standards applicable to actual or constructive notice evidence.

In this case, the Court noted that the Plaintiff allegedly slipped on a puddle of a brown substance that was located on the store's white floor in close proximity to the checkout counters where the store's cashiers were working.  Judge Thomson accepted the Plaintiff's argument that the motion for summary judgment was untimely in that there were still depositions of relevant witnesses to be completed, including the cashiers.  The Plaintiff also asserted that factual issues existed on the notice issue given the number of store employees that were in the vicinity of the fall at the time of the incident.

Judge Thomson also touched upon the law of spoliation and found that additional material factual issues existed in this regard in that there was evidence that the Defendant's store manager first indicated his belief that there was a videotape of the incident that was reviewed, yet later, it was learned that there was no tape in existence.

Based upon all of these issues, the court denied the Defendant store's motion for summary judgment and allowed the case to proceed.

Anyone desiring a copy of this Opinion by Judge Thomson in the case of Trently v. Giant Food Stores, LLC may contact me at

I thank the prevailing Plaintiff's attorney, Thomas Holmes, Esquire of Scranton, Pennsylvania for bringing this decision to my attention.

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