Importance of “Backing Up” Claims in MVA Case (PA)
In Ruffin v. Desh United Corporation et al. plaintiff learned a lesson fit for an evidence course lecture after he appealed the trial court’s decision in his personal injury case. According to plaintiff, he was injured while crossing the street when defendant driver backed into Ruffin with his car. The other defendants in the matter are defendant’s employers.
After defendants appealed an arbitration decision in favor of plaintiff, the trial jury found the driver was negligent, but plaintiff had not established that the driver was the factual cause of his damages. The jury also found that the driver was not acting as an agent for his employers at this time. Plaintiff appealed this decision arguing the trial court abused its discretion by allowing defendants’ counsel to reference and question witnesses about a police report during the trial, to incorrectly question plaintiff’s brother on an inconsistent statement from the arbitration and to admit a photograph into evidence that had not been previously disclosed. Ultimately, the Superior Court rejected these arguments.
In regard to the police report, the Court decided the information should have been excluded but its inclusion did not negatively affect plaintiff’s case. Thus, it stated the police report was cumulative of evidence already discussed by defendant and its inclusion was a harmless error that did not warrant reversal. Plaintiff’s second argument was defendants’ counsel should not have been permitted to cross-examine his brother on testimony given at the arbitration hearing because the arbitration was not transcribed. In response, the Court plainly stated it was permissible for counsel to cross-examine and impeach the witness with statements he made at a prior proceeding while under oath. These statements would have also been admissible substantive evidence. Lastly, plaintiff argued a photograph was erroneously admitted by the trial court because defendants had not previously produced it. Once again, the Court rejected plaintiff’s arguments by stating the photographs were not objected to at the trial court level and thus, his objection was waived. The plaintiff ultimately argued the Superior Court’s decision was against the weight of the evidence. However, the Court determined this argument lacked merit because plaintiff only presented underdeveloped claims.
Defendants tenacity coupled with plaintiff’s slackness resulted in a favorable outcome. Defendants are retained to fight even when the case appears hard to win and sometimes victory comes at the appellate level, but that tenacity paid off.
Thanks to Gabrielle Outlaw for her post. Please contact Vincent F. Terrasi with any questions or comments.