Mar 5, 2019

Trial Court Holds that Injury to Passenger Not Relevant

In a case involving an automobile accident, a trial court recently held that plaintiff’s counsel could not question his client about whether a passenger in plaintiff’s vehicle sustained an injury in order to help establish that plaintiff was injured in the accident.  Rashid v. Reed, - N.J. Super. – (Law Div. 2019).

Plaintiff, Haroon Rashid, was involved in an automobile accident.  Defendant stipulated negligence but disputed that plaintiff sustained a permanent injury in the accident.

During the course of trial, plaintiff testified that he was operating a jitney when it was struck by defendant’s vehicle.  Plaintiff was then asked what happened to one of the passengers in the jitney at the time of the accident and defense counsel objected.

The court ruled that evidence of the passenger’s injury was not relevant under N.J.R.E. 401.  Crucially, the court did point to the case of Jackowitz v. Lang, 408 N.J. Super. 495 (App. Div. 2009) wherein the Appellate Division had held that evidence of a passenger being thrown from her seat in a jitney was probative of the seriousness of the impact.  However, the trial court held that testimony regarding whether another individual was actually injured in the same accident as plaintiff is not relevant as to whether plaintiff sustained a permanent injury.  Furthermore, the court then held that even if the evidence was relevant, it would be outweighed by its prejudice under N.J.R.E. 403.

Finally, the court did note that its ruling did not foreclose the admission of testimony regarding another passenger’s injuries in certain limited circumstances.  However, that evidence would still not be admissible with respect to whether a plaintiff sustained a permanent injury caused by the accident.