Often at trial, information is kept from a jury which one would ordinarily consider to be completely relevant in deciding a matter in real life. Common sense issues like a defendant’s prior negligence history before inflicting a personal injury or a defendant’s acts after inflicting a personal injury upon a victim are matters usually not permitted into evidence for a jury’s consideration.
A defendant’s general character
Everyone knows a person typically acts in conformity with their demeanor and habits. However, a defendant’s general character is ordinarily not to be considered at trial. In other words, a party’s behavior in another matter normally cannot be considered in the determination of a new matter before a jury. For instance, a jury in a medical malpractice case in Georgia cannot know that a defendant doctor has been sued and found liable for professional negligence on five (5) previous occasions. The “reasoning” behind this rule is that parties should be judged on their isolated conduct in a particular circumstance. In actuality, defendants who appear at trial are often more likely to be “repeat offenders” and this truth is what caused them to be sued in the first place and what has inspired a plaintiff to take a case all the way to a jury against the bad actor.
A defendant’s subsequent remedial measures (error corrections)
A jury is usually not permitted to know about the steps a defendant takes to correct a problem after a person has been injured. For instance, if a person falls at a Kingsland, GA restaurant which knowingly has slippery tile at its entrance, the restaurant can replace the tile after its customer has been injured and then contradict the truth and argue to a jury the tile was not dangerous without any concern about the evidence of the tile’s replacement coming to light. While this deceitful turnabout defies logic, the legal “reasoning” behind this evidentiary rule is that by keeping such evidence away from juries, defendants will be encouraged to eliminate dangerous conditions (before someone else gets hurt) without fear of their repairs being used against them to prove their negligence in the first case. As to the practical effect of the rule, what often occurs is that a plaintiff stands before a jury hoping the jurors will recognize the defendant’s negligence of which the plaintiff, the defendant and the court are already aware.
The Dow Firm, P.C. specializes in motor vehicle, healthcare, premises and other injury and death claims. If you think you have a case, contact us here or call (912) 264-1919 for a free consultation.