Excluding Arguments that Invite Speculation by a Jury in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

As the plaintiff’s counsel and the defendant’s counsel prepare to take a personal injury lawsuit to trial, each side will prepare arguments to present to a jury. In the months before a trial, each side may decide to petition to the court to prevent certain testimony from being used, this is called a motion in limine.  A common type of motion in limine that is usually filed in a personal injury lawsuit is to exclude all reference to arguments that are speculative and not grounded in evidence relevant to the case. 

For example, in litigation that arises due to a car accident, plaintiff’s counsel may want to exclude all references to a plaintiff’s prior speeding tickets because the discussion of those tickets may make a jury assume that the plaintiff is a bad or reckless driver. Plaintiff’s counsel may also want to petition to exclude other information about their client that is not relevant to the case and that could make a jury perceive the plaintiff in a negative way, like drug use, health conditions or criminal charges unrelated to the incident. 

In the section below, we will take a look at a defendant’s argument in a motor vehicle collision personal injury lawsuit that could invite speculation by a jury and the argument a plaintiff’s attorney could make to have the defendant’s argument excluded from trial in the State of Nevada. 

Argument That an Unknown Third Party Caused or Contributed to the Collision

If a defendant’s counsel intended to blame unknown third parties for causing and contributing to a collision, the defendant’s liability would only be relieved if the third parties conduct was an intervening cause that in and of itself is the natural and logical cause of the harm and that the intervening cause was not foreseeable to the defendant. 

If a defendant is able to show evidence of a third party’s intervening cause, the defendant would also need to show that the third party’s conduct was unforeseeable and superseding. Only then would a defendant be relieved of liability. 

Nevada Supreme Court Advance Opinion No. 37 in Bower v. Laughlin (referring to the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 442 (1965)) lays out criteria for determining whether an intervening cause is foreseeable:

To determine whether an intervening cause is foreseeable, the following factors should be considered: 

  1. Whether the intervention causes the kind of harm expected to result from the actor’s negligence;
  2. Whether the intervening event is normal or extraordinary in the circumstances;
  3. Whether the intervening cause is independent or a normal result of the actor’s negligence;
  4. Whether the intervening act or omission is that of a third party; 
  5. Whether the intervening act is a wrongful act of a third party that would subject him to liability; and
  6. The culpability of the third person’s intervening act. 

If you have questions about a case, contact a wrongful death lawyer in Las Vegas, NV, like the professionals at Eglet Adams, for their insight on excluding prior unrelated medical conditions at trial.