(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this slip and fall/personal injury case and its proceedings.)
Plaintiff’s Claim for Emotional Distress Damages Cannot be Bolstered With Evidence of Her Husband’s Rare and Potentially Fatal Lung Disease
Plaintiff seeks to introduce evidence that her husband was diagnosed with a rare lung disease in June 2005 that either will require a lung transplant or may be fatal to bolster her claim for emotional distress damages as a result of the injury she sustained in her fall. Little is known about plaintiff’s husband illness for several reasons, not the least of which is that he is not a part to this lawsuit and, therefore, no discovery has been conducted on the illness. We do know from plaintiff’s deposition testimony and recent reports from counsel that plaintiff’s husband has been able to work to date.
Specifically, plaintiff claims that the illness bolsters the emotion distress associated with her injury because she now has been told that she can no longer work as a dental hygienist, and she may some day need to support her three young children alone without relying on her chosen profession. Despite the parties best efforts to meet and confer over this issue, discussions which resulted in a stipulation to exclude much evidence at trial, this issue remains in dispute.
Evidence of plaintiff’s husband’s unfortunate illness should be excluded at trial. Not only is the health of this nonparty irrelevant to the issues in this case, there is no foundation for the evidence, since plaintiff has not designated the requisite expert to testify about the rage lung disease.
Neither plaintiff nor her husband are qualified to offer testimony about the disease, and any testimony about what doctors may have told them about the disease or is alleged effects constitutes inadmissible hearsay. Therefore, there is no witness qualified to testify about the rare disease leaving only improper lay opinion and speculation, at best.
Finally, if allowed, evidence of this rare illness would not only result in a separate trial on the disease, thereby confusing the issues and misleading the jury, but the evidence also would cause substantial, unfair prejudice to ABC Hotel through the insurmountable sympathy for plaintiff and the substantial likelihood that the jury would decide the liability and damages issues without consideration of the evidence presented at trial.
There can be no doubt that plaintiff’s husband’s unfortunate illness has caused her emotional distress. However, for each of the foregoing reasons, evidence on that illness should not be introduced at her trial for damages arising out of her trip and fall accident at the ABC Hotel.
ABC Hotel reserves the right to alter or modify its position on plaintiff’s injury and damages claims once expert discovery is complete.
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.