Defendant’s Failure to Disclose Previous Traffic Tickets Results in Reversal in Favor of Plaintiff

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of West Virginia issued an opinion in a case that arose after an incident of road rage resulted in a commercial truck driver crashing and suffering injuries. The court held that the defendant’s act of failing to disclose the fact that he had several prior traffic offenses in the pre-trial discovery process resulted in the plaintiff not being able to properly rebut his testimony, and ultimately resulted in an unfair verdict.

Phillips v. Stear: The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff, a commercial truck driver, crashed after a maroon vehicle cut him off and “gave him the finger.” The driver of the maroon vehicle fled the scene, but a witness followed him and called 911, providing the license plate number to police. Police ultimately tracked the owner down and he was sued by the truck driver.

At trial, the defendant introduced evidence of his “good character,” testifying that he is not a fast or aggressive driver, and that he normally drives below the speed limit in order to conserve fuel. When asked about any prior traffic offenses, the defendant responded that, as best he could remember, the last time he was issued a speeding ticket was 2006. In response, the plaintiff asked if he had been issued a ticket in 2011, to which the defendant replied he “did not recall the incident.” While the plaintiff had proof of the 2011 citation, an evidentiary ruling kept it out of evidence.

Ultimately, the jury determined that the plaintiff failed to prove his case against the defendant, and determined that the defendant should not be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff filed a post-trial motion in hopes of the judge overriding the jury’s verdict, but the trial judge denied the motion. The plaintiff then appealed to the higher court, arguing that the defendant’s fraud and/or misrepresentation should have resulted in the trial judge granting the plaintiff’s post-trial motion.

On appeal, the state supreme court found in favor of the plaintiff. The court noted that defendant’s failure to disclose his 2011 traffic citation for speeding left the jury with an incorrect impression that went to the heart of the plaintiff’s case. As a result, the trial judge should have set aside the jury’s verdict in favor of the defendant. As a result of this ruling, the plaintiff’s case will now likely result in a new trial.

Have You Been the Victim of a Maryland Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been the victim of another driver’s negligence, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. It is important to make sure that you are represented by savvy, thorough, and experienced attorneys who are keenly familiar with both the substantive personal injury laws in Maryland as well as the evidentiary rules. The skilled personal injury advocates at the Maryland law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen have decades of experience bringing cases against negligent drivers. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Court Keeps Out Plaintiff’s Expert Testimony in Birth Injury Case against Car Manufacturer, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published March 2, 2016.

Accident Victim’s Signed Release Encompasses At-Fault Driver and Subsequent Allegedly Negligent Physician, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published February 16, 2016.

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