Illinois Court on Admissibility of Photos at Slip and Fall Trial

One issue that frequently crops up during personal injury trials is the admissibility of photographs of the scene where the accident occurred. Sometimes, the photos sought to be admitted were taken immediately after the accident occurred, while other times the photos were taken sometime after the accident but are offered to show the layout of the location where the plaintiff was injured.

Sometimes, a party will object to the admission of the photos on the grounds that they are somehow prejudicial and offer little value to the jury.

The Appellate Court of Illinois, Fourth District, recently addressed that issue in Lambert v. Coonrod, No. 4–11–0518. In this case, the plaintiff was injured while helping the defendant with a project. While doing so, he stood on a coil spool and tried to reach for a light above him. As he did so, he fell and injured his left side and back, sustaining a lumbar fracture and broken rib.

He later filed a personal injury lawsuit alleging that the plaintiff “failed to provide a safe and stable platform from which he could work and failed to warn him that the spool he stood upon was or could be unstable and easily tipped.”

The case went to trial and at trial, the defendant sought to introduce photographs of the scene of the accident–the inside of the shed where the plaintiff fell–which were taken over a year after the accident occurred and included items, such as a ladder, that weren’t in the shed when the plaintiff fell.

The plaintiff objected to the admission of the photos because they failed to accurately portray the scene of the incident at the time that it occurred. The Court disagreed:

Coonrod testified to pictures of his shed that were taken approximately one year after the incident occurred. The pictures showed the interior of the shed, including the shelving area. Coonrod testified the photos fairly and accurately depicted the layout of the shed, although not the items therein, at the time of the accident. He also testified the ladder in the picture was purchased after the accident had occurred. Plaintiffs argue the photos were highly prejudicial because they showed a “ladder as being available and conveniently located in the shed.”

The photos of the shed were relevant in this case. The pictures showed the interior of the shed where the accident took place, as well as the white-painted spool that Richard stepped on before falling. Although the ladder was not present at the time of the accident, the jury cannot be said to have been misled by the photo. Coonrod testified he purchased the ladder after the accident. Moreover, the trial court admonished the jury that the photos were being admitted to show the interior of the shed and the position of the loft. The court told the jury it was not to concern itself with the contents of the shed depicted in the photos.

Thus, the court held that the photographs were properly admitted by the trial court and thus the jury’s verdict in favor of the defendant was upheld. So, even though the photographs were taken long after the plaintiff fell and injured himself, the court believed that they were nevertheless assisted the jury in deciding whether the plaintiff’s personal injury lawsuit had merit.

The Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. You can reach the firm by calling (312) 346-8780.