Plaintiff's Jury Award of $5.9 Million Reversed Due to Evidence Rule

November 4, 2014

The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded a case to district court because of an evidence-rule violation. A woman brought a wrongful death action on behalf of her husband. She claimed that her husband developed lung cancer because of his addiction to cigarettes. She brought a suit against the manufacturer of the cigarettes.

untitled-1391828-m.jpgApparently, the defendants discovered evidence that the plaintiff's husband was addicted to alcohol in addition to cigarettes. The plaintiff filed a motion in an attempt to exclude the evidence of her husband's alcoholism. She focused on the expert's report and his opinion that additional data was needed to determine the cause of her husband's death and any relationship his alcoholism had to his cancer. Her motion was granted by the judge.

The plaintiff was awarded a large settlement. However, the defendants appealed the decision and claimed that evidence of the plaintiff's husband's alcoholism should not have been excluded. The court found that under Federal Rule of Evidence 403, the evidence of the plaintiff's husband's alcoholism was "highly probative and did not cause a high amount of unfair prejudice." The court remanded the case for a new trial.

Kentucky Rules of Evidence and Federal Rule 403
It is important that attorneys abide by any and all federal and state rules of evidence, since many times verdicts and awards hinge on the proper application of the rules of evidence. Rule 403 is designed in an attempt to appreciate that in certain circumstances evidence should be excluded. These situations are ones where there is a high level of risk that the evidence will be improperly judged. For example, there may be situations where including the evidence would induce a decision made because of emotion, or it would waste time and confuse the jury. In these situations, the judge would balance the probative value of the evidence and the need of evidence against the harm if it was admitted.

Kentucky Rule 403 explains that, even when evidence is relevant, it may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of undue prejudice. This rule was enacted, similar to the federal rule, to reduce confusion to the jury and to eliminate misleading evidence. Furthermore, the rule is important in limiting undue delay or needless presentation of the cumulative evidence.

Ensuring That Your Attorney Properly Abides By Evidentiary Rules
As the above case illustrates, following the rules of evidence is crucial in increasing the chances that a favorable outcome in your wrongful death or personal injury case will not be overturned. If you are bringing a wrongful death or other personal injury suit, it is important to seek the advice and counsel of an experienced and dedicated attorney who will be able to present your evidence in the most appropriate manner. If you believe you have a personal injury suit, including a wrongful death claim, contact one of our diligent attorneys today at 502-583-2300 to set up a free initial consultation.

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