In order to rule that evidence is admissible, this court must find that its probative value is not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. Fed.R.Evid. 403. The admissibility of evidence of claim-mindedness has been the subject of considerable cogent discussion. See McCormick's Handbook of the Law of Evidence § 196 (E. Cleary ed. 1972) (hereinafter cited as McCormick ); also see 3A J. Wigmore, Evidence § 963 (Chadbourn ed. 1970); Annot., 69 A.L.R.2d 593 (1960).
Where it has been proved that a party brought previous claims which were similar in nature and fraudulent, most courts have admitted the evidence of the former claims on the ground that it is strongly relevant to falsity of the current claim. McCormick, supra, § 196 at 466. Here, inasmuch as there is no proof by defendants that the plaintiff's other claims were fraudulent, defendant's evidence does not fall within an accepted exception for proven false claims.
At the other end of the spectrum, evidence tending to show that a party is a chronic personal-injury claimant generally has been excluded because its slight probative value has been deemed outweighed by the danger of prejudice. Id. In this case, the probative value of any evidence cannot be ascertained presently because defendant has described some of the claims in no greater detail than "automobile or home related accidents." Here, defendant has not shown sufficient similarity between plaintiff's prior claims and the current one to warrant any inference of fraud.
There are the middle ground situations where there has been a showing of repeated similar claims. Id. 466-67. Such evidence may be relevant due to improbability of chance repetitions of similar accidents to the same person. Simultaneously, however, such evidence may be prejudicial to litigants who may be accident prone or otherwise innocent of fraud. McCormick suggests that "the judge, balancing in his discretion probative value against prejudice, should admit the evidence only when the proponent has produced or will produce other evidence of fraud." Id. 467. In this case, defendant offers no such corroborative evidence. Furthermore, the balancing of relevancy against prejudice is impeded, and indeed precluded, by the lack of detail and clarity as to exactly what evidence defendant intends to introduce and the purpose for which it is offered. Defendant has neither identified which depositions or other testimony he wishes to introduce, nor identified any similarity among the accidents or injuries, nor made an offer of proof of fraud, nor stated whether the evidence will be introduced as part of his case-in-chief, on rebuttal, or on cross-examination.
In the case upon which defendant places primary reliance, the evidence of similar accidents or fraud was admitted on cross-examination for the purpose of impeaching the witness. Mintz v. Premier Cab Association, 75 U.S. App. D.C. 389, 127 F.2d 744, 744 (D.C.Cir.1942). Other cases cited by defendant show that the evidence of similar accidents or fraud was either introduced on cross-examination, was introduced by plaintiff, or was admitted for impeachment purposes or was tending to show that injury had been caused by prior accidents as opposed to direct proof of fraud. See Atkinson v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, 197 F.2d 244, 245-46 (10th Cir. 1952) (evidence was elicited on cross-examination, was admitted as tending to impeach plaintiff's testimony of particular careful driving habits); Manes v. Dowling, 375 A.2d 221, 223-24 (D.C.1977) (evidence introduced by plaintiff, admitted as relevant to the nature and extent of injuries); Evans v. Greyhound Corp., 200 A.2d 194, 196 (D.C.1964) (evidence admitted on cross-examination).
Here, in the absence of a clear showing of the existence of probative and admissible evidence, the motion in limine is denied.
An appropriate Order follows.
AND NOW, this 21st day of November, 1980, it is hereby ORDERED that:
1. The Order dismissing defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, filed September 18, 1979, is VACATED and defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is GRANTED.
2. Defendant's Motion in Limine to Admit the Use of Certain Items of Evidence During Trial, filed June 25, 1980, is DENIED.
3. On or before November 24, 1980, each party shall file requests for jury instructions (in duplicate), proposed special interrogatories addressed to the jury, and memoranda on all contested legal issues.
AND NOW, this 21st day of November, 1980, it is hereby ORDERED that as to Count II, only, of plaintiff's complaint, judgment is entered in favor of defendant, Allstate Insurance Co., and against plaintiff, Levi Bunion.
© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.