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Oliver J. Coles v. Chester A. Harsch

Citation. Coles v. Harsch, 129 Ore. 11, 276 P. 248
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Brief Fact Summary.

Defendant, Oliver J. Coles, married the former wife of Plaintiff, Chester Harsch. Plaintiff sued Defendant for alienating the affections of his wife.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A series of small evidentiary violations can amount to a retrial.


Defendant was initially married to Plaintiff’s sister and hung out in the same social circles as Plaintiff. One activity of the social circle was the wrestling of men with each other’s wives. Plaintiff introduced evidence that Defendant’s attention to Plaintiff’s wife was beyond the norm for their circle, and it led to the divorce of Plaintiff and his wife, whom Defendant married shortly thereafter.


There are several issues presented in this case.
The first issue is whether a proper foundation was laid for Plaintiff’s impeachment of a defense witness.

The second issue is whether it was harmless error to exclude evidence that related to the conduct of the wrestling social circle.

The third issue is whether Plaintiff could introduce an impeaching question on a collateral matter, or additional evidence of collateral matters.


The court made the following holdings.
The foundation was not proper and was irreversible error. The witness was only asked whether he remembered a conversation without any additional foundation.

The Court found that the exclusion of evidence to further demonstrate the wrestling activities was no error or harmless error. The court reasoned that a juror would typically understand that the conduct would inflate the likelihood that Defendant and the wife would bond.

The court held that Plaintiff can not question Defendant on a collateral matter just to catch Defendant in a lie. Further the admission of affidavits was not admissible.


The court delivered a laundry list of evidentiary mishaps from the lower court. The common thread is that evidence purported to fall under one evidentiary ruling will not be allowed when the evidence is obviously meant to be more prejudicial than relevant.

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