The following blog entry is written from a defendant’s position as trial approaches. Reviewing this kind of briefing should help potential plaintiffs and clients better understand how parties in personal injury cases present such issues to the court.
(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this sexual harassment case and its proceedings.)
Plaintiff May Not Offer Evidence of Lee’s Private Relationships and Conduct.
Defendants anticipate that Hill will attempt to prejudice the jury against Defendants by offering evidence relating to Lee’s non-work related sexual conduct, including relationships with men and other private conduct outside of the workplace. For example, in opposition to Defendants’ motion for summary judgment, Hill submitted a declaration in which she asserted, without foundation, that Lee ordered so many pornographic videos on his Directv account at home that his Directv account was repeatedly blocked by Directv …. (Hill Decl., filed in opposition to Defendants’ MSJ) In some cases, it is anticipated that Hill will seek to justify her proffer of certain evidence, by baldly claiming that she was at Lee’s private home for work meetings. (Hill Decl.) For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.
Any such evidence is irrelevant and unfairly prejudicial, and its introduction would violate Lee’s Constitutionally guaranteed right of privacy. The constitutional right of sexual privacy, both within and without the marital relationship, is a fundamental liberty arising from both the United States and the California Constitutions. The California right has been described as a protective zone of privacy “surrounding sexual behavior…” Boler v. Superior Court, 201 Cal. App. 3d 467, 473 (1987). Indeed, California accords privacy the constitutional status of an “inalienable right, on a par with defending life and possessing property.” Vinson v. Superior Court, 43 Cal. 3d 833, 841 (1987) (internal citations omitted).
Where an individual’s past sexual conduct is at issue, discovery is not even allowed unless the plaintiff can shoulder this heavy burden of showing that the information is directly relevant to her claims. Boler, 201 Cal. App. 3d at 474-475 (denying plaintiff’s motion to compel responses to questions about defendant’s sexual relations with third parties other than the plaintiff in sexual harassment case). If discovery of a defendant’s sexual relationships with third parties is generally not permitted under California law, then, a fortiori, neither is such information admissible at trial. Indeed, in Beyda v. City of Los Angeles, 65 Cal. App. 4th 511, 521 (1998) the trial court was found not to have abused its discretion when it excluded evidence of prior harassment by other former employees of the defendant where the acts did not occur in the plaintiff’s presence and she had no knowledge of them during her employment with the defendant.
If evidence of harassment of other women was properly excluded in Beyda, evidence of Lee’s voluntary sexual relationships with third party individuals, and other similar evidence of private conduct, certainly should not be admitted in this case. Permitting such evidence to be admitted would violate Lee’s constitutional right to privacy in his consensual sexual relationships. Cal. Constit. Art. I, § 1; Boler. 201 Cal. App. 3d at 474-475.
Plaintiff seeks lost wages, emotional distress damages and punitive damages.
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.