The judge plays an extremely important role in any Florida personal injury case. Among the major duties of the judge during a trial is to make all evidentiary rulings. These may come up in a pre-trial motion in limine or throughout trial when a party attempts to elicit or present certain evidence that the opposing party believes is objectionable and should be excluded.
Florida judges are guided in these decisions by the Florida Rules of Evidence, which are quite complex and cover many of the situations that may come up during a trial. Perhaps the most basic rule is stated in Rule 90.402, which explains that “all relevant evidence is admissible, except as provided by law.” Thus, the party attempting to admit evidence must first establish that it is relevant. If that party can do so, then it is up to the opposing party to explain why the evidence is otherwise excludable.
Some of the reasons why relevant evidence may be excluded are that the evidence is based on hearsay testimony, the evidence has not been properly authenticated, or the evidence relates to a privileged matter. One of the most commonly cited rules to keep out relevant evidence is Rule 90.403, which states that “relevant evidence is inadmissible if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of issues, misleading the jury, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.”
When a party objects under Rule 90.403, the judge must balance the probative value of the evidence against the dangers listed in the Rule. Most often, those opposed to the introduction of evidence claim that the evidence is unfairly prejudicial. For example, in a recent personal injury decision, the plaintiff argued that evidence of the plaintiff’s mental health issues, as well as the illegal substances that were found in her blood after the accident, was unfairly prejudicial and that the potential for prejudice outweighed any probative value the evidence contributed. The court, however, drew on the distinction between the prejudice that comes from any unfavorable evidence to the “unfair prejudice” that the rule is concerned with.
The court noted that one of the central issues in the case was why the plaintiff walked out in the road as a semi-truck was approaching. The court explained that the plaintiff’s mental health issues or potential intoxication could have provided the jury with an explanation for the plaintiff’s behavior, and thus was probative. The court also noted that there was no indication that the evidence would encourage the jury to decide the case based on an impermissible factor. Thus, the court overruled the plaintiff’s objection to the admission of the evidence.
Have You Been Injured in a South Florida Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any South Florida auto accident, contact the dedicated Florida injury lawyers at the law firm of Cecere Santana. At Cecere Santana, we handle all types of Florida personal injury and wrongful death claims, and have been doing so for over 20 years. To learn more about how we can help you recover for your injuries, call 800-753-5529 to schedule a free consultation today.
See Additional Blog Posts:
Arbitration in Cases Against Florida Nursing Homes, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, November 29, 2018.
Florida Bicyclist Accidents Caused by Distracted Drivers, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, published December 5, 2018