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Florida Courts will Not Permit “Gotcha” Approach in Trial

courtProcedural rules in the legal system are intended to make the process fair and to give each party enough notice to handle certain things. As such, lawyers are to treat each other with courtesy and follow certain rules pertaining to every aspect of litigation, including disclosures. Courts typically disfavor tactics that unfairly surprise one side. The Second District recently decided a case in which one side tried to use a clerical error to his advantage.

In Andreaus v. Impact Pest Management, Inc., the plaintiff sustained injuries in a slip and fall accident. Specifically, the plaintiff fell when she exited an elevator and slipped on the ground because of spilled pesticide. The victim and her husband filed a lawsuit against the condominium association as well as the pest control company, claiming that the latter had carelessly sprayed pesticide on the floor in the area right outside the elevator.

The plaintiff’s medical records contained statements that she had slipped on water, although the sources of the statements were unknown. The plaintiff claimed she did not make such claims, and no one could figure out the source of the statements. The plaintiff moved to exclude the statements as hearsay. The court granted the motions, and the plaintiff’s attorney redacted the statements from the medical records.

However, the plaintiff’s attorney inadvertently failed to remove two of the statements stating that the plaintiff had spilled on water. Defense counsel noticed these statements and asked the court to be able to comment on them in his closing arguments to the jury. The court permitted him to do so, using the rationale that the records had already been admitted into evidence. The jury returned a verdict for the defense, and the plaintiff subsequently appealed.

The Second District Court ruled that the lower court abused its discretion in allowing the statements to be referenced by defense counsel since they were deemed inadmissible hearsay. The court noted that the defense counsel took advantage of the clerical error rather than pointing it out so it could be corrected. This was a “gotcha” tactic that the court deemed to be improper. Attorneys are officers of the court who have a legal duty to act with honesty and impartiality when it comes to various aspects of litigation. Additionally, the Oath of Admission to the Florida Bar necessitates that lawyers act with a certain degree of professionalism.

If you have been injured in a premises liability accident, it is best to seek the advice of a qualified Miami injury attorney who can meticulously assess the merits of your case. Robert Dixon has years of experience and has helped countless clients seek the compensation they deserve for their injuries. We proudly represent clients throughout South Florida. We will answer all your questions and address your concerns at every step of the legal process. To learn more about your legal rights and options, contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878).

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