Case Law Alerts
Evidence of the plaintiff’s conduct admitted as impeachment and causation evidence in strict product liability case.
The plaintiff and the decedent were passengers on a motorcycle that crashed when the rear tire experienced a blow-out. The plaintiff filed suit against the manufacturer of the tire, asserting claims of negligence and strict liability. At trial, the court denied the plaintiff’s motion in limine to preclude evidence pertaining to the: (1) steps taken by the plaintiff to ensure the safe operation of the motorcycle; (2) weight carried on the motorcycle at the time of the accident; and (3) air pressure of the tire. The trial court’s ruling was affirmed on appeal. The Superior Court held that, although the challenged evidence could not be used to prove negligence on the part of the plaintiff in the claim for strict liability, it was admissible for other purposes. Specifically, the Superior Court ruled that evidence of the plaintiff’s conduct was admissible to impeach his testimony about being safety-conscious. The Superior Court further ruled that evidence pertaining to the over-deflection/under-inflation of the tire was admissible to prove that the accident did not result from a defect but, rather, from the plaintiff’s decision to ignore a possible problem with the tire. Because the trial court instructed the jury that the evidence was to be used only as evidence of causation, it was properly admitted, and the plaintiff’s appeal was denied.
Case Law Alerts, 1st Quarter, January 2018
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