Missouri Evidence: Admission of Negligence by Defendant does Not Make Facts of Negligent Acts Irrelevant for Trial
As a Missouri accident attorney handling hundreds of personal injury and Missouri car accident cases, I have never once seen a case where the defense admits they were in the wrong when filing their answer or defensing the lawsuit. Even in the situation where the defendant has plead guilty to DWI after being arrested after the collision. In fact not only do the auto insurance lawyers deny liability, they make affirmative defenses saying that the victim was at fault. However, oftentimes that changes the days before trial, the defense will decide to admit negligence or fault for the car accident or other negligence that caused they injury and then plead to the jury to ignore the facts of the accident and determine the victim is only entitled to a small amount of damages. This is an attempt to minimize the jury verdict by glossing over the defendant's reckless acts. Some St Louis judges have recently gone along with this and ruled that the evidence of the accident itself and how it happened is irrelevant since the defense admitted fault. This is reversible error. A good injury lawyer knows the law and is prepared to stop this type of a ruling that could severely damage a good injury case. This is not the law in Missouri, and even when the defense admits fault, the Plaintiff can still put on their evidence regarding how the collision or injury occurred.
This issue was resolved as far back as 1934 in the case of Ruppel v. Clayes, 72 S.W.2d 833, (MO Ct App 1934) and was recently revisited in Burrows v. Union Pacific, 218 S.W.3d 527 (Mo Ct App ED 2007), specifically stating that "Even when a defendant makes an unqualified admission of liability, a plaintiff has the right to introduce evidence relevant to the issue of liability." Burrows at 534. As to allow this would "allow a defendant to substitute a "naked admission" for a full picture of the events may rob the evidence of much of its fair and legitimate weight". Id.
Why is this important? It is particularly important in Missouri drunk driving accident cases or car collisions where the at fault driver did not make just a mistake, but was reckless in their actions that led to the auto collision or other type of injury. You can imagine that given the same injuries, a jury would likely return a different verdict if the defendant was a mother temporarily distracted by her children in the back seat versus a drunk driver coming home from the bar in the middle of the night. That is what the defense will try to do with motion to exclude the facts of the incident claiming them as irrelevant because they just admitted fault. Additionally, in most cases involving a drunk driver, the defense denies the at fault driver was drunk, and then will admit it once the case goes to trial. Well, that is relevant as the defense has now taken two inconsistent positions, dragged an innocent victim to a trial by denying they were drunk and caused the drunk driving collision and then admitting it at the last minute so they do not look like jerks to a jury. And for what? in an attempt to save an auto insurance company a little money by trying to deny a victim justice.
The last minute admission of liability is just one of many tactics in the insurance defense lawyers' arsenal. If you are the victim of personal injury, call experienced St Louis accident lawyer Ben Sansone for a free no obligation consultation at (314) 863-0500 or contact us online.
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