During the show, Craig Ashton and company got into a conversation about how the ubiquity of video has impacted the legal landscape. Craig started by discussing how video can be useful for lawyers like those at Ashton & Price, even in instances that you wouldn’t necessarily expect: “Video is super helpful. We never want to prosecute a case that ultimately has no merit. That is against the oath that we took, and it also overburdens the civil system with causes of action that have no merit. The nice thing about what happens now [with video evidence being so readily accessible], if we have a slip and fall, where there’s a duty of reasonable care owed, and let’s say there’s a leaking freezer and water’s been on the floor for hours and somebody falls and breaks their shoulder, then at least we’ll have a video to determine how long the water was there.
“There’s a very famous case about a banana peel. A person fell in a railroad station, and the whole crux of the case was, ‘what color was the peel?’ If it was yellow, it hadn’t been there for very long, and we’re not going to require them using reasonable care to pick up a yellow banana peel. But if it’s brown, it’s been decomposing and been there for a while, they’re not using reasonable care, they owe that duty, if the person falls and hurts themselves, then there’s liability.
“So video is super helpful for us. It happens in auto accidents, it happens in slip and fall cases, and we can make a very quick determination with whether or not there’s a legitimate reason to move forward, and whether or not our client should avail themselves of the legal process.”
But, video can also seriously harm a prospective plaintiff: “Video is super important in regard to [the impression you make upon a court]. If you are involved in a family law dispute, if you’re getting a divorce, don’t be putting pictures of yourself on Facebook with two girlfriends in Vegas. It’s not going to be helpful for your custody battle. If you’re injured and you say that your life is over, don’t videotape yourself—and put it on Instagram—bowling, or playing golf, or…”
Edward Schade quickly volunteered, “Finishing a marathon!”
Craig then added, “Or wrestling, or…”
Timothy Hodson then one-upped everyone with, “Playing basketball with your dead sister… that is a true story.”
Craig went on to explain, “Those are issues that are case-killers. Because, those are things that take away the subjectivity and allows people to cut through the verbiage and the storytelling and look at something that is of much more objective understanding as to how these events should be interpreted.”
Craig and company then went on to illustrate their points by discussing a couple of recent national news items whose outcomes hinge upon the video evidence so helpfully provided by the perpetrators in question.
The Case of the Romantic Idiot on Instagram
“So what we’ve got are a couple of real idiots here. I mean, this one guy is a romantic idiot, so, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Because if you’re acting as an idiot for love, we’ve all done that.
“So this guy basically decided that he was going to ask his girlfriend to marry him. And he was on Highway I-45, which is apparently one of the biggest and busiest freeways in the entire country, that’s outside of Houston. So he had his family follow him. It [was he and his girlfriend’s] favorite spot because he’d taken her on a motorcycle there before. Family followed him in the three different lanes, stopped traffic, got her out of the car, got on one knee in the middle of the interstate—which, you know, romantic in the middle of the oil spill and perhaps some car fumes, you know, the waft of diesel…—he popped the question, and the fiancée said, ‘I didn’t know if it was a good or bad idea, I was just so caught up in the moment.’
“So what happened was, is that he put this on Instagram and then the Houston police saw it. And at that point, they’re looking to charge him with obstructing traffic.”
Timothy Hodson stepped in to explain why what the prospective spouse did was so hazardous: “What if someone’s not paying attention and has to slam on their brakes because of this, plows into his family’s party, and kills him and his wife standing in the middle of the freeway.”
Ed Schade went on to suggest, “What if there was an ambulance taking somebody in an emergency situation?”
Hodson: “Firetruck, anything.”
Craig Ashton got back on track by summing it up: “All kinds of liability… So from a legal perspective, if an accident happens, he’s going to have civil liability for negligence, for their lost income, their pain and suffering, and their medical expense. If there is an accident that causes significant injury, it could be a felony, if somebody dies, it’s probably going to be homicide. So he’s lucky he dodged this, and that Instagram video would have been the nail in the coffin in regards to the prosecution for all of these things, and he may just get lucky with just a traffic violation.”
The Case of the Drunk Idiot on Twitter’s Periscope
Craig Ashton quickly launched into the second story: “So then we’ve got this Florida woman who’s even more of an idiot. She gets hammered, she’s in Lakeland, Florida, and she’s using what’s called ‘Periscope,’ [an application for Twitter that allows users to broadcast live video to their Twitter followers]. She’s talking about how drunk she is, she’s got a flat tire… so, a bunch of people called into 911, saying this lady’s driving drunk. Fortunately, somebody in the LPD, the Lakeland Police Department, knew how to use Periscope, figured out where she was, and she got arrested for DUI.”
After a bit of banter about having to rely on the young in order to understand technology, Craig ribbed Timothy Hodson, the youngest of those in the studio, by asking, “So are you Periscoping?”
He quickly responded, “No! I know what it is, but no. I’m an attorney, I’m not putting any part of my life on blast, anywhere! If I learned anything from law school, it’s to not put anything like that in public.”
After the brief aside, the group quickly returned to the seriousness of the situation. Ed Schade summed up the difficult legal position that the drunk Periscoper is now facing: “For the prosecutor, it’s demonstrative evidence. It’s been captured [on video], and two, the statements she’s making, you hear her saying she’s drunk… these are all admissions that are now going to be used against her at her criminal prosecution.”