Crash Case Dismissal for Willful Discovery Violations

When pursuing damages for injuries sustained in a car accident, it is never a good idea to lie or even exaggerate with regard to injuries suffered. Even the slightest evidence of dishonesty can be used not only to mar your credibility, but may even result in a dismissal of your case.
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Our Spartanburg car accident lawyers believe in careful vetting of each case to determine whether there are weaknesses and how they may be legally overcome. Trial courts are given broad discretion in determining whether inconsistent discovery responses are willful violations, or simply vague answers that could be open to interpretation. Having a lawyer argue the latter on your behalf could preserve your claim.

The recent case of Ashmore v. Mississippi Authority on Educational Television reveals what can happen when plaintiffs are less-than-honest with defense attorneys, the court or even their own lawyers.

Here was a car accident case that might well have resulted in a favorable ruling for plaintiffs. However, repeated omissions, misrepresentations and inconsistencies during depositions resulted in the judge granting a defense motion to dismiss. This decision was later affirmed by the Mississippi Supreme Court, although the decision was split, with three justices dissenting on the grounds the trial court should have held a more comprehensive hearing before resorting to such drastic action.

The case started when the husband was struck by another vehicle driven by an employee of the Mississippi Authority on Educational Television. His complaint indicated he suffered personal injuries directly related to the crash, including damage to his right and left knees, neck, back and upper arms. His wife, meanwhile, sought damages for loss of her husband’s services, consortium and companionship. She further sought compensation for the time she spent rendering nursing care to her husband, as well as for emotional distress and loss of life enjoyment.

During the deposition, the husband did not disclose a previous back injury, or prior surgeries he underwent on both knees or an injury to his left leg that occurred after the crash. He answered on three separate occasions that he had no prior or subsequent injuries to the areas of his body he claimed were injured in the crash.

The wife, meanwhile, failed to disclose that she was seeking similar damages (for emotional distress, rendering nursing care) in an unrelated nursing home negligence lawsuit filed on behalf of her father.

Additionally, though the husband stated in this case his injuries were solely due to the crash, a subsequent application for Social Security Disability Insurance (which was ultimately granted) indicated he also suffered from coronary disease, diabetes and gout.

Both parties were questioned directly about these issues, and answered in a manner inconsistent with the facts.

As the dissenting justices later noted, both parties eventually clarified most of these points. For example, the husband indicated his pre-existing conditions worsened after the crash. And the wife wasn’t barred from seeking damages for rendering nursing care or emotional distress in one case just because she also sought it in another. The issue, however, was that the parties provided inconsistent answers when questioned.

Although the dissenting justices agreed the trial court should have held a more extensive hearing on the issue, the court majority indicated there was no abuse of discretion on the part of the trial judge in dismissing the case on these grounds.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Ashmore v. Mississippi Authority on Educational Television, Aug. 14, 2014, Mississippi Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Estate of Edmund M. Carman v. Tinkes: Negligence Per Se in Car Accident Cases, Aug. 18, 2014, Spartanburg Accident Lawyer Blog

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