Most people don’t know cruise lines have closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras recording the movements of passengers and crew in many of their ship’s common areas. CCTV videos are extremely important in cruise accident lawsuits as they confirm the plaintiff’s accident. Cruise lines, however, are hesitant to produce these videos. The reason is their attorneys study the videos and ask hyper detailed questions to the injured plaintiff regarding the accident. The cruise lines hope the injured passenger or crew member traumatized by the event will not remember every minute detail of the accident which usually happened a year or more before the deposition. If the passenger or crew member gives an answer slightly different from what is shown on the video, the cruise lines will try to discredit the plaintiff in front of the judge or jury at trial. In short, cruise lines are trying to use the CCTV videos to play “gotcha” in order to paint the plaintiff in a poor light.
On December 4, 2009, Barbara Schulte slipped and fell aboard the NCL Jewel while walking along the pool deck. The accident resulted in immediate back pain and Ms. Schulte was escorted to the ship’s medical facility. A few months later, Ms. Schulte underwent a three level vertebral fusion.
The afternoon before Ms. Schulte’s deposition, NCL disclosed it had a CCTV video of the accident, but refused to produce the video until after its attorneys asked questions of Ms. Schulte at a formal deposition. Brais & Brais canceled the deposition and immediately filed a motion with the Court requesting an order compelling NCL to turn over the CCTV video before the cruise line could depose Ms. Schulte. NCL argued the CCTV video is “work product” privileged and need not be produced to Brais & Brais before the deposition. In essence, the work product privilege allows a party to a lawsuit to keep materials it prepared in anticipation of litigation from the view of the opposing party.
Brais & Brais argued a video from a CCTV camera recording people’s vacations cannot be prepared in the anticipation of litigation and, therefore, not privileged. Moreover, Brais & Brais argued it would be unfair to allow NCL’s lawyers and NCL corporate witnesses to prepare for depositions with the benefit of the video and not allow Ms. Schulte to view the video in preparation of her deposition.
The court agreed with Brais & Brais’ analysis and found the CCTV video is not protected by the work product privilege and ordered NCL to produce the video before the deposition Ms. Schulte. Click here to see the Court’s order compelling NCL to produce the CCTV video of the accident.