Brief Fact Summary.
Plaintiff alleged that she sustained injuries by Defendant’s employee. Plaintiff’s counsel obtained a statement from the employee regarding the circumstances surrounding the injury. The trial court sustained an objection to the use of the statement during cross-examination. A jury verdict was entered for Defendant. Plaintiff appealed.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
The Rules of Professional Responsibility are self-imposed internal regulations and do not play a role in determining the admissibility of evidence.
The Rules of Professional Conduct are self-imposed internal regulations and do not play a role in determining the admissibility of evidence.View Full Point of Law
Plaintiff alleged that she was burned with hot water while being given a bath by Defendant’s employee and suffered injuries as a result. Plaintiff’s counsel contacted the employee and obtained a statement from her regarding the bath and burns. The trial court held that the attorney violated state ethics rules in taking the statement, and sustained an objection to the use of the statement during cross-examination. A jury verdict was entered for Defendant. Plaintiff appealed.
Did the trial court properly limit cross-examination by prohibiting the use of a witness’s statement obtained by Plaintiff’s counsel?
No. The trial court erred in limiting cross-examination and sustaining an objection to the use of a statement as a prior inconsistent statement.
The dissent argued that the remedy of barring the witness’s statement was appropriate due to the egregiousness of Plaintiff’s attorney’s conduct in obtaining the statement.
Defendant, as the witness’s employer, was not a party at the time of the challenged communication, and there was no evidence that the employer had retained counsel regarding the matter when the witness’s statement was taken; even without these considerations, it still would have been error for the court to bar the admission of the evidence based on a violation of attorney ethical rules.