North Carolina Appellate Court Rules in Favor of Plaintiff in Discovery Dispute Involving Trip and Fall Accident

One of the most serious dangers that you can face is a dangerous property that is not maintained in a safe condition. As seasoned North Carolina slip and fall attorneys, we have seen firsthand how disruptive an accident can be for the victim and his or her loved ones. If you were injured on another person’s property, we can help.

In a recent North Carolina appellate opinion, the plaintiff had parked her car in a handicap parking space at a mall in Henderson County. When the plaintiff exited her vehicle, she tripped and fell on a portion of pavement that was uneven. In her complaint, she alleged that she sustained severe and painful injuries as a result of the fall. The incident was reported to the property manager, who prepared a report regarding the incident. The facility had a policy that any occurrences on the property would be reported.

After the lawsuit commenced, the plaintiff served interrogatories on the defendants and asked for copies of any and all incident reports that were prepared regarding the trip and fall. The defendants refused to provide the report, stating that it was protected under the rule that protects information prepared in anticipation of litigation. This is similar to the attorney-client privilege rule, which protects information shared between a client and attorney for the purpose of obtaining legal advice.

The parties were unable to resolve the discovery dispute, and the plaintiff filed a motion to compel production of the documents. The trial court ruled that the report was not prepared in preparation of litigation and that it was part of a routine process at the business. The defendant appealed.

On review, the court first reviewed the concept of documents and information prepared in anticipation of litigation, noting that the court routinely held that reports prepared as part of an ordinary course of business are not considered work product and will not be protected. Instead, the work product doctrine is intended to protect information that reflects conclusions, opinions, mental impressions, or legal theories of an attorney or a party’s representatives regarding litigation. The court also reviewed the property company’s policy handbook and found that the language regarding reporting occurrences affirmed that the reports were a routine and ordinary business practice.

The defendant tried to argue that the report gave employees discretion regarding whether they could prepare a report and that it did not include any non-litigation statement in the policy. The court rejected this argument, again noting that business records are not considered protected as work product. Had the policy handbook contained some statement about the reports being intended for any litigation arising from the incidents, the appellate court may have decided the matter differently.

If you were injured in a premises liability accident, you may be entitled to compensation from the property owner. Understanding your legal rights and knowing how to proceed to recover compensation can be daunting. At Maurer Law, we can provide you with the reliable and trusted legal counsel that victims require when coping with this type of event. To schedule your free consultation, call us at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online.

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