Florida Court Weighs Admissibility of Late Evidence in a Negligence Case

In Florida, there are rules that dictate when parties must produce evidence in support of their claims and defenses and when witnesses, including experts, must be disclosed. Such rules are designed to ensure a fair trial and to prevent one party from ambushing the other with previously unforeseen information on the eve of trial. If a party fails to comply with deadlines regarding discovery and disclosure, it may have an adverse impact, as demonstrated in a recent car accident case in Florida in which the plaintiff’s late-produced expert was prohibited from testifying. If you suffered injuries in an accident, it is important to speak to a knowledgeable Florida personal injury attorney regarding what you must prove to recover damages.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff, who was operating a power chair, was struck by a car when she attempted to cross a Florida highway in a construction zone. She filed a lawsuit against the driver and the construction company, setting forth negligence claims alleging, in part, that she suffered psychological trauma due to the accident. During discovery, both the defendant’s and the plaintiff’s expert psychiatrists testified that the plaintiff was not suffering from PTSD and issued reports reflecting that testimony.

It is reported that days before trial, however, the plaintiff produced a second report from her expert wherein the expert stated the plaintiff suffered from PTSD and that it was caused by the accident. The defendants filed a motion in limine, asking the court to preclude the newly produced evidence, and the motion was granted. The jury found that plaintiff did not suffer any harm in the accident and ruled in favor of the defendants, after which the plaintiff appealed, arguing the trial court erred in precluding her second expert report.

Admissibility of Late Evidence

Florida courts have ruled that a trial court can properly preclude the testimony of a witness whose identity was not properly disclosed in accordance with a pretrial order. The court’s decision as to whether to exclude testimony from a witness that was disclosed after the deadline is largely guided by whether allowing the undisclosed witness to testify will prejudice the opposing party. Prejudice, in this context, does not mean that the testimony will be adverse but that it will represent a surprise, in fact, to the opposing party.

Other factors the court may assess include whether the party seeking to introduce the witness acted in bad faith, the objecting party’s knowledge of the evidence prior to disclosure, or the ability to cure prejudice and the disruption of orderly trial. In the subject case, the court found that the late disclosure of the witness prejudiced the defendant, and the plaintiff declined to continue the trial so that such prejudice could be cured. Thus, the trial court ruling was affirmed.

Speak with an Experienced Florida Attorney

Regardless of whether a plaintiff is injured due to the negligence of another party, a plaintiff that does not comply with procedural rules may be denied damages. If you were injured in an accident, you should speak with an attorney regarding your possible claims. The experienced Florida personal injury attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. take pride in aiding injured parties in the pursuit of damages, and if you hire us, we will fight tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact us at 800-283-7442 or through the form online to schedule a conference.

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