When an accident victim files a case against another motorist, the law requires that certain information be passed through what is called “pre-trial discovery.” This allows both sides to have an idea of the evidence the other party will use to prove or defend their claim. While not every piece of harmful or beneficial information must be passed in pre-trial discovery, generally all relevant evidence should be passed. If a court determines that a party is hiding evidence, or is otherwise not complying with the discovery process, the court can implement sanctions against that party.
Earlier last month, an appellate court in West Virginia issued an opinion in a case that reversed a jury’s verdict in favor of the defendant after it came out that the defense failed to comply with pre-trial discovery rules. In the case, Phillips v. Stear, the court determined that the plaintiff was denied a fair opportunity to present his case when the defendant failed to disclose previously issued traffic citations and then denied knowledge of the citations at trial.
The accident giving rise to the case occurred when the plaintiff, a truck driver, was cut off by the defendant. According to the court documents, the defendant swerved in front of the plaintiff, made an obscene hand gesture, and then quickly applied the brakes. In response, the plaintiff tried to slow down as well, but he ended up losing control of the truck and crashing it off the side of the road.
At trial, the defendant claimed that this was not in his character, and it never happened. He claimed that he was a safe driver, who normally drove at or below the speed limit. In response to this testimony, the plaintiff sought to ask the defendant about a previously issued traffic citation for speeding. No such document was passed in discovery, but the plaintiff had found it through an independent investigation. The defendant denied any recollection of the ticket. The jury ended up finding in the defendant’s favor.
On appeal, the case was reversed, and a new trial was ordered. The appellate court did not focus on whether the defendant’s actions were intentional or inadvertent, but it instead focused on the plaintiff’s opportunity to present his case. The court determined that not being passed this evidence deprived the plaintiff of his fair opportunity and ordered a new trial.
Have You Been Involved in an Aggressive Driving Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been the victim of another driver’s road rage or aggressive driving, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. It is important to have a dedicated car accident attorney by your side to prevent another party from taking advantage of you or the court. Call the South Florida law firm of Cecere Santana at 800-753-5529 to speak with a dedicated personal injury attorney about your case.
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