Dennis Demnicki was in the lobby of First Quality Enterprises awaiting a sales meeting when he slipped on water located near the receptionist and was knocked unconscious. The manufacturing company located in King of Prussia, PA faced a personal injury lawsuit in a Philadelphia Court stemming from the incident. The company's safety manager was accused of attempting to conceal evidence after the accident. The case proceeded to trial and lasted eight days when suddenly a settlement agreement was reached. Demnicki was awarded $6 million to be paid by two of the organization's insurance companies
Demnicki entered the office for a sales meeting and was waiting in the reception area. He was walking to use the restroom when he noticed a puddle of water on the floor. In an effort to clean up the spill, his slipped and he head hit the reception counter and the floor. He was estimated to have been unconscious for about four minutes and emergency responders soon transported him to Paoli Hospital.
The incident was captured by a surveillance camera. Demnicki alleged that when he watched the video that the footage appeared to have been “cut and tampered with.” Mark Skinner, the safety manager, claimed that he did not retain the original footage. Skinner originally contended that the spill was caused by a water bottle that Demnicki was drinking from. He also suggested that the fall had been “staged.” An investigation by officials from Workers Compensation did not find any evidence suggesting fraud. Another video did show Skinner removing a watering can from the reception desk after the incident in efforts to hide what the plaintiff's contended was the true source of the water.
The defense stated that the floor was dry and adequate matting was in place. The plaintiff's meanwhile accused Skinner of trying to dishonestly defend the company and his own failure to prevent the accident. Demnicki suffered significant back problems and required spinal injections and both physical and occupational therapy. His past medical expenses totaled roughly $280,000 and future expenses were estimated to be $1 million. The claim also requested punitive damages based on the alleged attempt to “cover-up” evidence of the incident.
Spoilation of Evidence in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania law explains that if a party in a civil action willfully alters, disposes of, or fails to preserve evidence, they may be subject to penalties imposed by the court. These acts are called spoliation of evidence and potential court sanctions may include the following:
- Dismissal of plaintiff's claim if they demonstrated this behavior
- Excluding evidence presented by the offending party
- Instructing the jury about the violation
- The jury may infer that the evidence is damaging to the offender's case
Future Medical Expenses
The nature of a plaintiff's injury may be such that requires long-term medical treatment. For example, the injured individual may need future physical therapy, medical equipment, and even long-term nursing care. In these instances, damages that the party will accrue in the future must be calculated in some reasonable manner. Parties may employ medical or economic experts in assessing these damages and substantiating them.