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What Is Florida’s Best Evidence Rule?

The judge plays several roles in a Florida personal injury trial. Among a judge’s most important job is to determine which evidence the jury is permitted to consider in coming to its decision. When preparing for trial, parties gather all the evidence they hope to use to support their case. However, not all evidence is admissible for every purpose. Some evidence is categorically prohibited, and other evidence is admissible for limited purposes. The judge decides what evidence the jury will be able to consider, and for what purposes. In making these decisions, judges must follow the Florida Rules of Evidence.

In a recent Florida slip and fall case, the court had occasion to discuss what is called the “best evidence rule.” Under Florida Statutes section 90.954, “except as otherwise provided by statute, an original writing, recording, or photograph is required in order to prove the contents of the writing, recording, or photograph.” Thus, under the rule, if the evidence is a writing, recording, or photograph, only the original source of that evidence can be submitted. In the case mentioned above, the evidence at issue was video surveillance tape from the grocery store where the plaintiff slipped and fell.

Under the best evidence rule, the original source of the evidence is required unless:

  • The original was lost or destroyed (unless the original was lost or destroyed in bad faith);
  • The original cannot be obtained;
  • The party trying to keep the evidence out was initially in control of the evidence, but they did not present the evidence when they received notice of the claim; or
  • The evidence is not related to a controlling issue in the case.

The most common exception to the best evidence rule involves the accidental destruction of evidence. Typically, this occurs when video evidence is destroyed or written over after an accident, but before the party in control of the evidence is made aware of the case. Often, grocery stores and other businesses that use continuous surveillance footage keep only a week of footage before recording over the video.

This is precisely what happened in the case mentioned above. The original video was destroyed before trial; however, a store employee had seen the surveillance footage and was allowed to testify to his recollection of the video. Because the accident victim could not show that the store destroyed the video in bad faith, the employee’s memory of the video was admissible under the best evidence rule.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Slip and Fall Accident?

If you or someone you love has recently been injured in a Florida slip and fall accident, you must act fast. While you may have years to file your claim under the statute of limitations, the sooner you file, the better the chances are of obtaining all necessary evidence. At the South Florida personal injury Law Offices of Robert Dixon, we represent clients in a wide range of injury claims, including Florida premises liability cases. We understand the urgency of staring the investigation and collecting all evidence as quickly as possible. To learn more, and to schedule your free consultation today, call 877-499-HURT (4878).

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