Exclusion of Evidence of Plaintiff’s Prior Accidents Reversible Error

Terrell v. Joshua, [Ms. SC-2022-0937, Sep. 1, 2023] __ So. 3d ___ (Ala. 2023). The Court (Mendheim, J.; Parker, C.J., and Shaw, Wise, Bryan, Sellers, Stewart, Mitchell, and Cook, JJ., concur) reverses the Jefferson Circuit Court’s judgment entered on a $675,000 jury verdict and remands the case for a new trial, holding the trial court committed reversible error by excluding all evidence of and any references to the plaintiff’s previous automobile accidents.

The plaintiff argued at trial that he suffered a new injury as a result of the November 2015 accident caused by Terrell and that all evidence related to his three motor vehicle accidents in 2005, 2013, and 2014 and should be excluded. Plaintiff relied on the testimony of his treating physicians that prior to the 2015 accident, he had fully recovered from the injuries suffered in the prior accidents. Ms. **11-12. The trial court excluded all evidence of the prior accidents.

While acknowledging the trial court’s discretion in admitting evidence, the Court concludes the trial court erred to reversal in excluding the evidence given the similarities between the previous accidents, the fact that the plaintiff’s injuries were to the same parts of his body in all the accidents, and the similarities in the pattern of plaintiff’s pain and recovery following each accident. Ms. *32. The Court explains the trial court’s exclusion of the evidence had “an enormous impact on [the defendant’s] ability to mount a defense” on the cause and extent of plaintiff’s injuries and the credibility of plaintiff’s testimony concerning those issues, and thus the trial court’s ruling was not harmless. Ms. *42.

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