As a St Louis injury lawyer I am always thinking of every issue that the insurance lawyer may try and use against my client at trial, no matter how trivial. Currently, we are handling a Missouri serious injury case from a broken back resulting from a fall after a chair at a hotel broke when an average weight male sat on it.
Early on in the case the insurance company inquired as to the injured client's prior marriage history; in this case my client has three prior marriages. This may seem harmless and a collateral issue on its face but it must be dealt with early on with objections. Why? because if this issue, which has nothing to do with the Missouri spinal cord injury case, may be injected into trial in front of the jury which may cause some jurors to look disfavorably upon my spinal injury client. This is important because you never know what beliefs about marriage and divorce jurors may have and may hold against a witness who has been divorced several times before.
The Missouri Supreme Court addressed this exact issue after the appeal of a St Louis car accident lawsuit wherein the defense read into evidence doctor notes discussing the Plaintiff's marital history. The notes indicated several marriages and the court ruled that was improper. See Johnson v. Sandweg, 378 SW 2d 454 (MO 1964) stating:
"Thus, by the admission and reading into evidence of the quoted portions of the Doctor's notes, was brought into the trial of the case, and made "very pertinent" the implication that plaintiff, thrice married and twice divorced, was irresponsible in marital and parental relationships, and subjected plaintiff to the scorn of those jurors who may have looked askance upon divorce and remarriage. So we say we think the admission into evidence of the quoted notes was prejudicially erroneous in this case."