Sunday, June 24, 2012

Evidence of Plaintiff's Prior Accidents Precluded in Lackawanna County Car Accident Trial

In his recent Opinion in the automobile accident case of Bodnar v. Mesko, No. 2009 - CIVIL - 6062 (C.P. Lacka. Co. June 11, 2012 Nealon, J.), Judge Terrence R. Nealon addressed a plaintiff's pre-trial motion in limine to preclude evidence of the plaintiff's prior accidents as irrelevant and prejudicial.

In this case involving a 2009 motor vehicle accident that allegedly caused the plaintiff neck and back injuries, the defense wanted to introduce evidence of the plaintiff's prior 1997 trip and fall event and a prior 1998 motor vehicle accident after both of which the plaintiff had neck and back complaints.

After reviewing the pertinent case law, as well as the Pennsylvania Suggested Standard Civil Jury Instruction 7.90 ("Other Contributing Causes"), Judge Nealon ruled that evidence of previous medical complaints must be sufficiently connected to the complaints at issue so as to raise an inference of the existence of related pre-existing conditions; where such a connection is not established through expert testimony, evidence of the prior accidents or injuries will be precluded as irrelevant and inadmissible.

Here, where there was no evidence of any sustained neck or back complaints or treatment during the time between 1997 and 2009, the court ruled that the defense had not sufficiently connected the plaintiff's current alleged neck and back complaints back to the plaintiff's prior incidents.  The court pointed out that the defense medical expert in this case did not opine that the plaintiff's current complaints were traceable back to the 1997 or 1998 events.  As such, evidence of the specific, prior incidents were found to be irrelevant and prejudicial and evidence of the same was precluded by the court. 

The defense was, however, allowed to more generally argue, based upon the defense medical expert's opinion, that the plaintiff's neck and back complaints after the subject accident were due to pre-existing degenerative changes in the plaintiff's spine.

Anyone desiring a copy of this Opinion by Judge Nealon in the Bodnar case may click this LINK.

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