As a general rule, when a party gets an adverse result after going to trial, they are stuck with it. However, there is a big exception to that general rule, and that is when a party can point to an error made by the trial court – either in substantive law or procedure – and ask a higher court to review the decision. This process is called an “appeal.”
Phillips v. Stear: Road Rage Taken Too Far
In the case of Phillips v. Stear, the plaintiff was a truck driver who was involved in an accident when he was cut off by the defendant. The testimony presented at trial showed that the defendant swerved in front of the plaintiff, flashed an obscene gesture, and then abruptly slammed on the brakes. As a result of the defendant’s vehicle coming to a sudden slow-down in front of him, the plaintiff applied the brakes in a hurried fashion, lost control of the truck, and got into an accident.
The plaintiff sued the defendant. At trial, the defendant testified that he was a safe driver and that he normally drove at or below the posted speed limit. He did so, he told the jury, to save on gas. In response, the plaintiff’s attorney began to ask the defendant about his driving history. The defendant admitted he had one prior citation for reckless driving about 10 years prior, but he could not recall any other infractions.
The plaintiff’s attorney, having conducted research into the defendant’s driving history, knew that the defendant had been issued a ticket recently for speeding. However, when asked about it on cross-examination, the defendant denied any recollection of the citation. The judge determined that the citation was a “law enforcement record” only, and it was “not an acceptable document” for the jury to consider. As a result, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant.
The plaintiff appealed to a higher court, which reviewed the trial court’s opinion and determined that the plaintiff should have been given a chance to ask the defendant about the recent citation. The court was not concerned with whether the defendant’s misrepresentation was intentional, and it focused instead on the plaintiff’s opportunity to present his case. As a result of the lower court’s error, the case was reversed, and the plaintiff may very well receive the compensation he was seeking.
Have You Been Involved in a South Florida Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been involved in any kind of South Florida car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for everything you have been through. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Cohn & Smith have the experience, passion, and dedication you need to feel comfortable putting your case in their hands. To discuss your case with an attorney, call 954-431-8100 today to set up a free consultation.
Related Blog Posts:
Florida Plaintiff’s Bad-Faith Claim against Insurance Company Upheld on Appeal, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, March 16, 2016.
Federal Appellate Court Reverses Lower Court Judgment and Rules Against Firearms Manufacturer in Products Liability Lawsuit, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, March 4, 2016.