Some product liability lawsuits can get ridiculously confusing. People who suffer injuries from defective products come from all walks of life, and many of them choose to conceal certain evidence from court or ask the judge to keep certain pieces of evidence out of trial.
In Pennsylvania, plaintiffs have a right to suppress evidence when it is irrelevant to the case. In some cases, keeping certain pieces of evidence helps them win the case. In other cases, however, it becomes a huge mistake that prevents them from getting the compensation they need.
Pennsylvania is a contributory negligence state, which means an injured plaintiff has a right to recover damages only if he or she was less than 50 percent at fault. For that reason, it is important to consider what kind of impact suppressing evidence can have on your odds of winning.
To illustrate it more clearly, our Philadelphia product liability attorney from the Dan Doyle Law Group is going to review a recent case that took place in Berks County.
The case goes like this: John and Anthony were headed home from a wedding reception they both had attended. During the wedding, John consumed alcohol. When driving home, Anthony began tailgating John, who became annoyed and engaged in the practice of brake-checking Anthony.
Our experienced product liability lawyer in Philadelphia explains that brake-checking is a practice of deliberately and unnecessarily braking hard in order to force the motorist tailgating you to stop driving too closely or cause him/her to hit the back of your vehicle.
But let’s get back to our case at hand. At a red light, John exited his car and walked toward Anthony, who did not expect it, and attempted to flee in his car, but, in the process, his vehicle hit John and dragged him about 100 feet, causing John injuries.
Even though John was the injured victim in that case, police charged him with harassment, driving under the influence of alcohol, and driving on a suspended license.
As you may have guessed, John filed a personal injury lawsuit against Anthony for negligence and recklessness to recover compensation for his injuries. Before the trial, John filed a motion to suppress the following evidence: his harassment charge and the fact that he was intoxicated at the scene. John also asked the judge to keep the fact that he pleaded guilty to drunk driving and driving with a suspended license out of trial.
However, Anthony was allowed to present all of the evidence to the jury, which helped him win the case. The judge ruled against John, concluding that he was 74 percent at fault in the accident, while Anthony, who hit John with his vehicle, was only 26 percent to blame.
As a result, John would not get any compensation for his injuries, since he was more than 50 percent at fault.
Then, John appealed and the judge granted him a new trial. Our Philadelphia product liability attorney explains that under Pennsylvania law, when the defendant seeks to present evidence that is irrelevant to the case, you, as a plaintiff, have a right to file a motion to suppress those pieces of evidence. Typically, the court will grant it.
However, if the court allows the defendant to present the evidence that should have been excluded and kept out of trial in the first place, and you ultimately lose your personal injury case, you have a right to appeal and seek a new trial.
But how did this happen? Why did the judge allow John, who lost the initial trial, to seek a new trial? That is because the evidence the judge allowed Anthony to present at the trial were not relevant to the case and John had previously asked the judge to dismiss them. While John’s DUI charge was relevant to the case, his harassment arrest as well as the fact that he had a suspended license were not relevant to determine fault.
Therefore, John argued that by allowing Anthony to present the irrelevant evidence, the court unfairly prejudiced his personal injury case. Consult with our best personal injury lawyers in Philadelphia at the Dan Doyle Law Group to find out how suppressing certain evidence in your case may affect your odds of winning. Call at 215.987.3730 or fill out this contact form to get a free consultation.