Brief Fact Summary. The Appellant, Davidson (the “Appellant”), was injured after being attacked by a steer which had escaped from an overturned truck owned by the Appellee, Folkens Brothers Trucking (“Folkens”) and driven by the Appellee, Prince (the “Appellees”).
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Utah Rules of Evidence (U.R.E.) Rule 704 prohibits expert testimony as to whether a person is negligent because that opinion requires a legal conclusion, which is the responsibility of the jury. U.R.E. Rule 408 similarly prohibits testimony concerning statements made in the course of settlement negotiations.
Whether the court erred in instructing the jury regarding the tax consequences of their verdict?
Whether the court erred in excluding expert opinion testimony regarding the negligence of the Appellant?
Whether the court erred in allowing testimony regarding statements made in a letter from the Appellant to the Appellees, after it found that the statements were not a part of settlement negotiations between the parties?
In a case of first impression to the Utah Court of Appeals (the “Court”), the court held that the trial court should not have instructed the jury regarding the tax consequences of its verdict.
The Court held that the lower court did not err when it excluded the opinion testimony of an expert regarding the negligence of the Appellant, because such testimony would be a legal conclusion, which is the ultimate duty of the jury to decide.
The Court held that the trial court did not err allowed testimony regarding statements made by the Appellant in a letter written to the Appellees, because the statements were not made in the course of settlement negotiations.
Failure to give requested jury instructions constitutes reversible error only if their omission tends to mislead the jury to the prejudice of the complaining party or insufficiently or erroneously advises the jury on the law.View Full Point of Law
At trial, the Appellant’s expert was asked to give his opinion regarding the negligence of the Appellant. The trial court refused to allow that testimony. The Appellant argued to the Court that such testimony was admissible because opinion testimony is allowed under U.R.E. 704. However, the Court found that such testimony was not admissible because the testimony would merely be advising the jury what result they should reach.
Relying on U.R.E. Rule 408, the Appellant argued that the Court should not have allowed evidence concerning statements the Appellant made in a letter to the Appellees. The Appellant contended the statements were part of settlement negotiations and were therefore not admissible under U.R.E. Rule 408. The trial court found that the statements were admissible because the letter from the Appellant to the Appellees merely contained facts about the accident and was therefore admissible. The Court found that the trial court did not err in admitting that testimony.