In some personal injury cases, the incident in question, or other relevant evidence may be captured by surveillance video. It seems obvious that either side should be able to review these videos and show them to the jury if it will help the jurors to determine what exactly happened and who is at fault for the accident, but this wasn’t always the case. It took the decision of Dodson v. Persell, 390 So.2d 704 (Fla. 1980) by the Florida Supreme Court to give Tampa personal injury attorneys some guidelines on obtaining and using surveillance videos.
In the Dodson case, the Florida Supreme Court decided that the existence of surveillance videos and photographs is discoverable in every case; this means that each party to a lawsuit has the right to know if they exist and what is on them. The Court also held that if one party wants to use a surveillance video at trial for any reason, they have to produce it to the other side. The Court also said that if a party must turn over surveillance video, they must give a reasonable amount of time for the other side to review the video before trial so that no one is surprised at trial, or the day before trial, with video evidence that may change their theory of the case.
Finally, and most interesting, the Court held that before turning over surveillance video evidence, the party that took the video has the right to depose anyone in the video so that no one has an opportunity to change their story as to what happened based on what they see in the video. The Court laid out these rules to help promote fair trials and also help prevent people from misusing video evidence by slowing it down, speeding it up, or using Hollywood effects that may distort its content.
Back in 1980, the Florida Supreme Court probably could not have imagined how prevalent cameras and video recordings would become, or how significant their decision would be in light of today’s technology and resources. Still, they promoted an open and fair process in determining how law suits are settled and decided to this day.