Any case can be complex, which is why you need an experienced New York accident attorney on your side. Even a case that seems straightforward, such as a pedestrian hit by a commercial truck, can have issues that arise which make it even more important to have an experienced attorney steering the case in the right direction.
In the recent case of a pedestrian in Brooklyn, Claudia was crossing the street at an intersection when a commercial garbage truck slammed into her. The truck didn’t stop; the police became involved, and, based upon information gleaned from an eyewitness and from Claudia, a detective eventually found a surveillance video that allowed the police to identify the truck that hit the woman.
The pedestrian sued the company that owned the truck and the man who drove it. The case first went to trial on the issue of liability, where the primary issue litigated was whether the defendants’ truck actually was the truck that hit Claudia that day. In presenting her case, Claudia called multiple witnesses. The police detective who found the video was not one of them. There may be many reasons why you, as an injured plaintiff, might decide not to call someone as a witness who might seem to be helpful on the surface. Maybe your case is already very strong, and adding more witness testimony might only serve to potentially confuse the jury. Or, perhaps putting the witness on the stand might “open the door” to allow for the other side to get in evidence that might be unfavorable to your case.
In Claudia’s case, the defense saw the detective’s absence from the witness list and tried to call him themselves. The trial court did not let them call the detective, though, since the testimony they sought to obtain would have been inadmissible hearsay.
At the trial’s end, the jury found the defendants liable and awarded Claudia damages in excess of $3 million. The defendants appealed, with their appeal focusing on the trial judge’s refusal to allow the detective to testify. The Appellate Division rejected the appeal and upheld the verdict in favor of the pedestrian. The law creates certain clear limitations on admitting witness testimony. The proposed witness’ testimony must be relevant and material to the case on trial (meaning that it must be on-topic and something that will actually be potentially helpful to the jury in deciding essential issues). It must also not be within any of the categories that the rules declare to be inadmissible.
The detective’s testimony that the defense wanted to get in didn’t meet these standards. Part of the proposed testimony would have been about “collateral matters,” meaning that it wasn’t sufficiently relevant and material to the case. The rest of the proposed testimony would have qualified as hearsay, which the rules of evidence declare to be a category of generally inadmissible evidence. In the end, the trial judge’s ruling was proper, and the verdict in favor of Claudia was upheld.
The skilled and diligent New York City truck accident attorneys at the law offices of Jacob Oresky have been working for many years to protect injured pedestrians throughout the New York area, including in Westchester County and on Long Island. Find out how you can put our office’s experience and abilities to work for you to help you achieve success in your case.
For a free case evaluation, contact us online or call our office at 718-993-9999. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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Photo credit: Estormiz (Public Domain / CCO License) via Wikimedia Commons.