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Grantham v. Eldorado Resort Casino Shreveport

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit

November 19, 2014

MARTHA GRANTHAM, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
ELDORADO RESORT CASINO SHREVEPORT, Defendant-Appellee

Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 566556. Honorable Roy L. Brun, Judge.

BRANDON T. MORRIS, G. ADAM SAVOIE, Counsel for Appellant, Martha Grantham.

RONALD F. LATTIER, CURTIS R. JOSEPH, JR., Counsel for Appellee, Eldorado Resort Casino Shreveport.

JASON M. NASH, BRIAN D. SMITH, Counsel for Appellee, Full Service Systems, Corporation, Inc.

Before WILLIAMS, STEWART and GARRETT, JJ. WILLIAMS, J.

OPINION

Page 1029

[49,474-CA La.App. 2 Cir. 1] WILLIAMS J.

Plaintiff, Martha O. Grantham, appeals a district court judgment granting summary judgment in favor of defendants, Eldorado Resort Casino Shreveport and Full Service Systems Corporation. She also appeals the denial of her motion seeking an adverse presumption of liability against defendants. For the following reasons, we affirm.

Page 1030

FACTS

On May 21, 2012, plaintiff, Martha O. Grantham, and her husband dined at the buffet located in the Eldorado Resort Casino Shreveport (" Eldorado" ). Plaintiff alleged that after they finished their meal and were in the process of leaving the restaurant, she slipped and fell after stepping " in a puddle about the size of a saucer, of something that looked to be either salad dressing or banana pudding."

On February 28, 2013, plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Eldorado, pursuant to LSA-R.S. 9:2800.6, alleging that Eldorado's employees " knew or should have known of the spilled food item/liquid substance, but no effort had been made to prevent the hazardous condition, or to warn guests of the hazard." On April 30, 2013, plaintiff filed an amended petition, adding as a defendant Full Service Systems Corporation (" FSS" ), the janitorial company responsible for cleaning the floors in the restaurant.

Both Eldorado and FSS moved for summary judgment, arguing, inter alia, that plaintiff was unable to meet her burden under LSA-R.S. 9:2800.6. Specifically, defendants alleged that plaintiff could not prove they had actual or constructive notice of the alleged hazardous condition.

Plaintiff opposed the motion for summary judgment and also filed a pretrial motion seeking an adverse presumption of liability against Eldorado [49,474-CA La.App. 2 Cir. 2] on the ground that defendant's failure to preserve the video-surveillance footage of the incident constituted spoliation of evidence. Plaintiff asserted that Eldorado had at least one video-surveillance camera that recorded all activity in the buffet area. Plaintiff also asserts that Eldorado's policy required it to preserve at least 15-25 minutes of video-surveillance footage surrounding all incidents on their property. However, in this case, Eldorado saved only seven seconds of the video footage depicting plaintiff's fall. In response, Eldorado conceded that it normally preserves approximately 15-30 minutes of video footage leading up to incidents on its premises. However, on the day in question, the employee normally responsible for retrieving and preserving the video footage was on vacation. The employee who filled in that day had never preserved video footage before; therefore, he saved only footage of plaintiff's fall, rather than the events leading up to the fall.

Following a hearing, the district court denied plaintiff's motion for an adverse presumption of liability on the ground of spoliation. The court also granted summary judgment in favor of defendants and dismissed plaintiff's claims. The court did not issue written reasons for judgment. However, at the conclusion of counsel's arguments, the judge stated, " [T]he Court's unable to grant the Motion seeking the Adverse Presumption, and Court does grant the Motion for Summary Judgment."

Plaintiff appeals.

DISCUSSION

Spoliation

Plaintiff contends the district court erred in failing to impose an [49,474-CA La.App. 2 Cir. 3] adverse presumption arising from Eldorado's failure to preserve at least 15-25 minutes of video-surveillance footage of the buffet area at the time of the plaintiff's fall. She argues that had the surveillance footage been available, she would have been able to prove how long the substance had been on the floor.

Spoliation of evidence occurs when a litigant destroys, conceals or fails to produce evidence within his or her control. This gives rise to an adverse ...


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