When someone is injured on someone else’s property, uncovering evidence to show liability is usually the job of the attorney, as it should be. Gathering and proving facts to show negligence is tougher than what most people think and it is more than what they see on TV.
One area that most lay people see as a “smoking gun” is a situation in which a landowner corrects a condition or problem on a property that caused an accident after the accident occurs. Common experience tells us that when someone fixes or corrects something, it is a tacit admission that there was a problem with that condition in the first place.
Subsequent Remedial Measures
When a landowner or business owner does this, it is called a subsequent remedial measure, and most people are surprised to learn that evidence of correcting or fixing a problem is actually inadmissible in trial to show that the defendant was liable.
This comes as a shock to most. Someone who thinks that a business should have had more security guards wants to tell a jury that the business later did hire more guards. Someone who is injured on stairs without a handrail wants to tell the jury that a handrail was installed after the accident. It can be frustrating to learn that this information generally can not be presented to the jury because Maryland, like many other states and the Federal Rules of Evidence, prohibits entry of this kind of information.
Reasons to Exclude Evidence
The reason why the information is not permitted is largely one of policy. We want to encourage businesses to fix and repair dangerous conditions as soon as they learn of them. If business owners know that making their property safer after an accident will be used against them to show liability in a lawsuit, they would sooner keep the property as-is and not make any tacit “admissions” that there was ever a problem. This, the logic goes, discourages business owners from making their properties safer.
There are limited exceptions to this exclusion. For example, sometimes there are disputes over who may own or control property. For example, a tenant may say that a landlord has responsibility for cleaning a floor or maintaining stairs. Evidence that one party or another made repairs to the property can be used to show who owns and controls it.
Evidence can also be used to impeach, such as when a witness simply denies that a condition existed. For example, a witness may claim that the floor on the premises was not wet at all. Evidence that an area was subsequently quartered off with cones, may be admissible to impeach the testimony of that witness.
There are other limited areas in which such evidence can be used. When it can be admitted, even if not for the purpose of showing that the Defendant admitted it did anything wrong, the evidence can be powerful and persuasive to a jury.
Make sure that you can present all the evidence needed to prove your injury case in court. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your injury or liability case.