EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Friday, January 25, 2013

I Keep Forgetting: 6th Circuit Finds Forgetfulness is Not a Character Trait for Rule 404 Purposes

Federal Rule of Evidence 404(a)(1) provides that "[e]vidence of a person’s character or character trait is not admissible to prove that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character or trait." So, is forgetfulness a character trait is covered by Rule 404(a)? According to the recent opinion of the Sixth Circuit in United States v. Nixon, 694 F.3d 623 (6th Cir. 2012), the answer is "no."

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January 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Am I Right Or Am I Right?: Supreme Court of West Virginia Finds Evidence of Insurance Inadmissible to Prove Handling of Claim

Similar to its federal counterpartWest Virginia Rule of Evidence 411 provides that

Evidence that a person was or was not insured against liability is not admissible upon the issue whether the person acted negligently or otherwise wrongfully. This rule does not require the exclusion of evidence of insurance against liability when offered for another purpose, such as proof of agency, ownership, or control, if controverted, or bias or prejudice of a witness.

If you're looking for a pretty good case explaining the goals of Rule  411 and its application, you need look no further than the recent opinion of the Supreme Court of West Virginia in Toothman v. Jones, 2012 WL 5687865 (W.Va. 2012).

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January 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Am I Right?: Eastern District of Michigan Finds Rule 410 Doesn't Contain a Constitutionally Protected Right

Federal Rule of Evidence 410 states:

(a) Prohibited Uses. In a civil or criminal case, evidence of the following is not admissible against the defendant who made the plea or participated in the plea discussions:

(1) a guilty plea that was later withdrawn;

(2) a nolo contendere plea;

(3) a statement made during a proceeding on either of those pleas under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11 or a comparable state procedure; or

(4) a statement made during plea discussions with an attorney for the prosecuting authority if the discussions did not result in a guilty plea or they resulted in a later-withdrawn guilty plea.

(b) Exceptions. The court may admit a statement described in Rule 410(a)(3) or (4):

(1) in any proceeding in which another statement made during the same plea or plea discussions has been introduced, if in fairness the statements ought to be considered together; or

(2) in a criminal proceeding for perjury or false statement, if the defendant made the statement under oath, on the record, and with counsel present.

In its recent opinion in Dozier v. Booker, 2013 WL 184000 (E.D.Mich. 2013), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan held that "nothing in the text of Federal Rule of Evidence 410 or its Michigan analogue even alludes to a constitutionally protected right." But was the court right?

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January 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

For Your Eyes Only: NJ Court Notes That Documents Prepared for Settlement Negotiations are Inadmissible

Federal Rule of Evidence 408 provides that

(a) Prohibited Uses. Evidence of the following is not admissible — on behalf of any party — either to prove or disprove the validity or amount of a disputed claim or to impeach by a prior inconsistent statement or a contradiction:

(1) furnishing, promising, or offering — or accepting, promising to accept, or offering to accept — a valuable consideration in compromising or attempting to compromise the claim; and

(2) conduct or a statement made during compromise negotiations about the claim — except when offered in a criminal case and when the negotiations related to a claim by a public office in the exercise of its regulatory, investigative, or enforcement authority.

(b) Exceptions. The court may admit this evidence for another purpose, such as proving a witness’s bias or prejudice, negating a contention of undue delay, or proving an effort to obstruct a criminal investigation or prosecution.

So, under Federal Rule of Evidence 408(a), evidence relating to settlement negotiations is generally inadmissible, and, as the recent opinion of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey in Alves v. Main, 2012 WL 6043272 (D.N.J. 2012), makes clear, this includes documents prepared for such negotiations.

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January 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Formula 409: Illinois Court Applies Rule 409 to Medical Offer That Took Place Before Rule Took Effect

Federal Rule of Evidence 409 and its state counterparts have to be among the least cited rules of evidence. Rule 409 provides that

Evidence of furnishing, promising to pay, or offering to pay medical, hospital, or similar expenses resulting from an injury is not admissible to prove liability for the injury.

I think that there are two primary reasons why this rule isn't cited very often. First, I would guess that offers to pay medical expenses are pretty rare. Second, because the language of the rule is so clear, I doubt that many litigants try to introduce evidence relating to an offer to pay medical expenses. But, with the recent enactment of the first Illinois Rules of Evidence, we can have a case like Lambert v. Coonrod, 966 N.E.2d 583 (Ill.App. 4 Dist. 2012).

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January 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)