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Frechette v. Welch

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Frechette (plaintiff) sued Welch (defendant) for injuries stemming from a car accident.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Parties must comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 32(a) before depositions can be substituted for live testimony

    Facts.

    The plaintiff sued the defendant for injuries stemming from a car accident, which the defendant denied liability for, alleging he lost consciousness, an unforeseeable event. The plaintiff sought the testimony of three physicians who treated him, with the first to testify in court, and the second and third physicians to give depositions. Defendant argued that the depositions could not be substituted for live testimony unless the plaintiff complied with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 32(a), showing the witness is unavailable. Nonetheless that judge allowed the depositions, under state law.

    Issue.

    Whether parties must comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 32(a) before depositions can be substituted for live testimony

    Held.

    Yes. Parties must comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 32(a) before depositions can be substituted for live testimony

    Points of Law - for Law School Success

    When a situation is covered by one of the Federal Rules, the question facing the court is a far cry from the typical, relatively unguided Erie choice: the court has been instructed to apply the Federal Rule, and can refuse to do so only if the Advisory Committee, this Court, and Congress erred in their prima facie judgment that the Rule in question transgresses neither the terms of the Enabling Act nor constitutional restrictions.

    View Full Point of Law
    Discussion.

    Under Hannah v. Plummer and its progeny, when a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure conflicts with state law, the Federal rule will win out. Thus, here rule 32 will govern and not the state law as the judge applied. The trial judge erred when he applied state law because rule 32 requires the party bringing the deposition as a substitute to demonstrate that live testimony was not possible. However, the errors were harmless and do not warrant reversal.


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