Florida Court Discusses Admissibility of Evidence in Product Liability Cases

Dangerous products often lead to the untimely demise of the people who use them. If a person dies due to the use of an unsafe product, the personal representative of the person’s estate will typically choose to pursue claims against the manufacturer of the product. In some instances, a  defendant in a product liability case may attempt to introduce evidence that the deceased person engaged in unsavory behavior in order to reduce its liability. Evidence must be relevant to be admissible, however, and even relevant evidence may be precluded if it is unduly prejudicial, as demonstrated recently in a Florida court’s ruling. If you lost a loved one because of a dangerous product, it is advisable to speak to a trusted Florida product liability attorney to assess your options.

The Claims Against the Defendant and Evidence of Marital Strife

It is reported that the plaintiff’s decedent smoked cigarettes that were manufactured and distributed by the defendant for approximately fifty years. He eventually contracted lung cancer, which ultimately caused his death. The plaintiff, who was married to the decedent, filed a lawsuit against the defendant manufacturer, alleging numerous claims, including negligence and strict liability.

It is alleged that, prior to trial, the plaintiff filed a motion to preclude the defendant from introducing evidence about the decedent’s infidelity and the couple’s marital problems, including their divorce and remarriage. The court granted the motion on the grounds that as the events happened long ago, they were irrelevant and were highly prejudicial because it painted the decedent in a poor light. A jury found in favor of the plaintiff, and the defendant appealed, arguing in part that the trial court erred precluding in testimony regarding the couple’s relationship.

Determining Whether Evidence is Admissible

Evidence that is relevant may be excluded if a court finds that its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of being unfairly prejudicial, confusing the issues, or presenting unnecessarily cumulative evidence. In assessing whether evidence should be admitted, courts should lean in favor of admissibility. Additionally, courts should examine evidence in a light that is most favorable to admission by minimizing its prejudicial impact and maximizing its probative value.

Further, the more critical evidence is to a party’s case, the greater its probative value, which means that evidence that is duplicative and simply reinforces a party’s case is more easily excluded than testimony regarding issues that the jury will not hear about in any other way. In the subject case, the court found that the evidence in question would be more prejudicial than relevant. Further, the jury was provided with other evidence regarding the marital issues between the plaintiff and the decedent. Thus, the trial court ruling was affirmed.

Speak to a Skillful Florida Product Liability Attorney

In many instances, a defendant in a product liability case will attempt to introduce evidence that is damaging to a plaintiff to reduce liability, but evidence must be relevant to be admissible. If you were injured or lost a family member because of an unsafe product, the skillful product liability attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. can gather the facts and evidence needed to provide you with a strong chance of obtaining a good legal result. We can be reached via the online form or at 800-283-7442 to set up a meeting.

Contact Information