Appellate Court Reinstates Plaintiff’s Case After Finding Lower Court’s Evidentiary Ruling Was Improper

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case requiring the court to determine if the lower court was proper in precluding the plaintiff from cross-examining an eyewitness to the accident. The case is important to Maryland car accident victims because the rule of evidence at issue in the case is very similar to Maryland Rule of Evidence 5-613.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when she was struck by the defendant’s car while crossing the street at an unmarked crosswalk. There was only one witness to the accident. However, the defendant hired an expert witness and also planned on calling the responding police officers to testify at trial.

Before trial, the plaintiff filed a motion to prevent the police officers from discussing what the eyewitness told them at the scene, claiming that such testimony would be inadmissible hearsay. The court agreed and limited the officers’ testimony only to what they personally observed.

During trial, the eyewitness testified to something that was different from what she told police on the day of the accident. The plaintiff attempted to cross-examine her about the inconsistencies in her testimony. However, citing the pre-trial motion filed by the plaintiff, the judge prevented the plaintiff from asking the eyewitness any questions involving the statement that she made on the day of the accident. The court explained that such testimony was covered under the motion and that the plaintiff would not be able to ask about inconsistent statements.

Ultimately, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed to a higher court. The plaintiff claimed the court made several errors, chief among them the evidentiary ruling preventing her from cross-examining the eyewitness on previously made inconsistent statements.

The court agreed with the plaintiff that the lower court was improper to preclude cross-examination of the eyewitness on her previous inconsistent statements. The court explained that parties are specifically permitted to question witnesses about inconsistent statements, and by denying the plaintiff the opportunity to do so in this case, her ability to prove her case was seriously hampered. Thus, the court reversed the lower court’s judgment and remanded the case for a new trial.

Maryland Rule of Evidence 5-613

When a party makes a statement during trial that seems to be inconsistent with another statement made at a previous time, the opposite party has a right to question the witness about this inconsistency under Maryland Rule of Evidence 5-613. This is an important evidentiary rule that Maryland personal injury plaintiffs can use to their favor when a witness’ testimony changes between the time of their initial interview and the trial.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Maryland personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen use their in-depth knowledge of the law to their clients’ advantage. To learn more, and to speak with a dedicated personal injury attorney about your case, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we are able to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

More Blog Posts:

Court Determines Jury Was Permitted to Find Witness Testimony Speculative When Failing to Award Plaintiff Future Medical Expenses, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published January 3, 2018.

Court Reverses Car Accident Plaintiff’s Summary Judgment Award Regarding Future Medical Expenses, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published December 18, 2017.

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