Years ago, Maryland personal injury cases relied more on witness testimony than any other type of evidence. However, with recent technological advancements has come a recent reliance on new types of evidence. Video evidence is among that which is becoming more common. In some situations, courts must revisit old rules when dealing with new evidence.
In a recent opinion issued by a state appellate court, the court certified a question to the state’s supreme court regarding the use of video evidence. Specifically, the question involved how lower courts should handle video evidence at the summary judgment stage when the video flatly contradicts one parties testimony.
Summary judgment is a stage in many personal injury trials in which a party claims that, taking the agreed-upon facts, it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Generally, courts will consider the uncontested evidence and apply the law to the facts. If the court determines that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the court will enter judgment without the case ever going to trial.
In this case, the plaintiff’s claim was based on a rear-end accident. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was driving on the highway when he rear-ended the defendant truck driver. The force from that collision resulted in the plaintiff’s death. The plaintiff’s estate filed a personal injury lawsuit against the truck driver, claiming that he was negligent. In support of its claim, the estate presented testimony from an eyewitness who stated that the truck driver had suddenly changed lanes and that part of the truck was in the plaintiff’s lane of travel.
In its defense, the truck driver presented footage from the truck’s front-facing dashboard camera. The footage showed that the truck was traveling within its lane when suddenly, the camera violently shook. It was agreed that the shaking of the camera was the result of the plaintiff rear-ending the truck. The truck driver moved for summary judgment, arguing that the video clearly proved that the eyewitness was mistaken. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, finding that, as a matter of law, the plaintiff could not prove her case. The plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s judgment. The court explained that the rule for summary judgment should be applied regardless of the type of evidence at issue. Here, because the eyewitness testimony contradicted that of the video, there was technically conflicting evidence. The reliability of each parties’ evidence, the court explained, was not an issue in the current summary judgment standard. For this reason, the court certified the question to the state’s high court for clarification.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?
If you or someone you love has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you’ve sustained. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we focus or skills on representing injury victims across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. We have over 20 years of experience successfully representing clients in all types of cases, including Maryland motor vehicle crashes. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 today.