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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

    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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