Florida Court Discusses the Use of Hearsay in Truck Accident Cases

People who cause fatal truck accidents typically refuse to admit responsibility and, in many cases, attempt to blame the person who died for the accident. Although defendants in truck accident cases are allowed to claim the deceased person’s contributory negligence as a defense, they cannot rely on inadmissible evidence to do so. In a recent Florida matter, a judge ruled on whether hearsay information can be used to prove comparative fault. If you or a loved one has died as a result of a collision with a tractor-trailer, you should consult with an experienced Florida truck accident attorney to discuss your possibilities.

The Fatal Crash

The plaintiff’s spouse was alleged to have been at work when he was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer owned by the defendant corporation and driven by the defendant driver. The plaintiff sued the defendants for wrongful death, claiming that their negligence was to blame for her husband’s death. During the trial, the defendants introduced testimony from a police officer who stated that another officer informed him that when the plaintiff’s husband was found at the accident scene, he had an earphone in his ear. The plaintiff appealed the final verdict, claiming, among other things, that the trial court erred in allowing the officer’s testimony since it was hearsay.

In Trucking Accident Cases, Is Hearsay Evidence Acceptable?

The appellate court determined that the officer was most likely testifying as an expert witness at the trial. As a result, the court considered how much he was allowed to rely on inadmissible evidence. The court emphasized that facts do not need to be accepted into evidence if they are of a sufficiently reliable nature. Expert witnesses may not reveal facts to the jury that are normally inadmissible unless the court determines that their probative value overcomes the danger of adverse influence.

The court went on to note that while an expert can form an opinion based on hearsay, Florida courts have repeatedly decided that expert testimony cannot be utilized to introduce otherwise inadmissible material. This is because the opposing party is denied the ability to impeach or cross-examine the source of the hearsay when an expert provides it to a jury in the form of an opinion or testimony.

In the issue at hand, the court eventually agreed with the plaintiff, finding that permitting the officer to testify about a highly impeachable statement without the benefit of cross-examination was a mistake. Furthermore, the court determined that this error was most likely a factor in the defense verdict. As a result, the court overturned the trial court’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Speak with a Skilled Florida Truck Accident Attorney

Losing a loved one due to a truck driver’s negligence can have terrible emotional and financial consequences. If you or someone you care about has been killed by a tractor-trailer, you should consult with an attorney about your possible causes of action. The skilled Florida truck accident  lawyers of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. can gather the evidence needed to help you seek any damages you may be owed.  You can reach us through our online form or by calling us at 800-283-7442 to set up a meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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