One of the things that has changed the most since I started practicing law two decades ago is the prevalence of surveillance video in tort cases. Twenty years ago, surveillance was still primarily captured on videotape and was expensive and difficult to use and store as evidence. It was unusual for our litigation team to obtain any surveillance video for cases, and on the rare occasion we did get it, it never showed anything useful because it tended to be shot from a single camera pointed at an unhelpful angle.
However, with the growth of digital recording equipment and affordable disk space on computers, surveillance video and its use in court has skyrocketed. Now, not only is it common to have surveillance video available for a lawsuit, it’s also very likely to have the incident shown from more than one view. Videos from taxis, buses, buildings and street intersections often all combine to give multiple views of an incident.
Given the prevalence of surveillance video and its influence on litigation, it’s important for both plaintiffs and defendants to understand its limitations and how it can lead to misunderstanding rather than illumination of the incident. There is no question that surveillance video can be absolutely key evidence used by both sides to try to prove their case. It cannot be ignored by either side, and what the jury believes the video shows can determine how they decide the case.
One potential problem with using surveillance video as evidence is the simple fact that it generally does not capture “normal” time views. (more…)