In a recent case, a commercial truck driver alleged that another driver engaged in road rage, causing him to crash. However, after the jury found in favor of the defendant, the decision was vacated due to the defendant’s concealment of past traffic tickets.
The truck driver argued that the defendant cut him off and slammed on his brakes. The truck driver then had to swerve to avoid him, and he crashed his truck and was injured as a result. The truck driver testified that the other driver “gave him the finger” before the accident. The other driver fled the scene but was tracked by a witness. He was cited for making an improper lane change and pleaded no contest to the citation. But at trial, the defendant argued that he did not cause the accident and that he was falsely accused.
The jury found that the plaintiff had failed to prove that the defendant negligently caused the accident. After trial, the plaintiff filed a motion to set aside the judgment because the defendant hid prior traffic citations during pre-trial discovery. The plaintiff argued that the defendant engaged in fraud, misrepresentations, or misconduct to get a favorable verdict. He said that the defendant hid evidence specifically requested in discovery and then presented evidence at trial contrary to the concealed evidence.
The Allegations of Concealment
At trial, the defendant testified that he was a careful driver and that he had not had a speeding ticket since 2006, five years earlier. The plaintiff’s lawyer tried to ask him about an August 2011 traffic citation for speeding, but the judge did not allow the questioning. After trial, the plaintiff argued that the defendant lied about numerous traffic citations during discovery and at trial, admitting only to the ticket in 2006. However, the defendant had been cited for speeding only six weeks before responding to questions during discovery, in addition to receiving other citations in recent years.
That state’s Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that the defendant’s misrepresentation and misconduct during discovery did not allow the plaintiff to adequately prepare for trial, and thus the judgment was unfair. The court held that the defendant engaged in misconduct or misrepresentation by failing to reveal prior traffic citations—even if that failure was unintentional.
Misconduct During Discovery in Illinois
Prior to trial, each party can obtain evidence from other parties in a process known as discovery. Misconduct during discovery is taken very seriously. In Illinois, generally each party is required to fully disclose the material requested from other parties as long as it is relevant to the subject matter in the case. If a party or witness refuses to answer a question during discovery, the person can be compelled to answer by the court. In addition, if a party does not comply with the court’s rules, the court can order that the case be put on hold, that the offending party be prevented from making a defense relating to that issue, that a witness be barred, or even that a judgment be entered by default against the offending party or that the party’s claims be dismissed. The court can also order that the offending party pay the expenses resulting from the misconduct, including the other party’s attorney fees.
Have You Been the Victim of Road Rage?
If you have been injured as the result of a transportation accident caused by negligent driving, you may be able to demonstrate that the driver was at fault because of the driver’s past driving behavior. As this case demonstrates, if a party attempts to conceal information, a lawyer can bring it to the attention of the court, which may mean serious consequences. The Chicago lawyers at Moll Law Group are available to help you file your claim and make sure that you have all the information you need. To speak with a dedicated personal injury attorney, call us at 312-462-1700 or fill out our consultation form to arrange a free initial consultation.
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