Trial Court Error May Jeopardize an Otherwise Favorable Verdict

In Maryland and across the United States, there is a system in place of appellate courts that are able to review the decisions of the lower courts. In most states, Maryland included, there are three levels of courts, starting with the trial court, then the intermediate appellate court, and finally the state supreme court. Above all of these is the United States Supreme Court, which intervenes only in select cases. Most cases are resolved within the state judicial system.

Garbage TruckJudges are human and can make mistakes. Thus, the system is set up to allow for appellate and supreme courts to review the decisions of lower courts in order to make sure that the lower court applied the law correctly. If a higher court decides that a lower court was wrong in its application of the law, the higher court can reverse, or overturn, the lower court. That is exactly what happened in a recent case brought by a woman who rear-ended a garbage truck and sued the driver as well as the truck’s owner for damages.

Torres v. Pabon:  The Facts

Torres was driving her Nissan early in the morning along a New Jersey highway before the sun had come up. She approached what she described as a “dark silhouette,” but she did not realize that what she saw was a truck until it was too late. She applied her brakes but was unable to stop in time and struck the back of the truck.

Torres filed a lawsuit against the truck’s operator as well as the owner of the truck, claiming that the truck had no lights on the rear of the truck at the time of the accident and that the driver was negligent in his operation of the truck. The jury determined that the defendants were collectively 55% at fault and the plaintiff 45% at fault. The jury returned a verdict in excess of $2.7 million to compensate the plaintiff. The defendants appealed, arguing that the trial court made several errors of law that deprived them of a fair trial.

The Appellate Court Decision

The appellate court reversed the lower court, agreeing with the defendants. The court explained that there were too many errors made below to let the verdict stand. Several of the errors involved evidentiary issues, including argument on the defendants’ lack of expert testimony, and the remaining errors involved improper jury instructions provided by the lower court. As a result of the appellate court’s decision, the plaintiff must take the case to trial again in hopes of a similar result.

Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Washington, D.C. car or truck accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the Maryland and Washington, D.C. law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have decades of experience bringing cases on behalf of their clients, and we know how to be successful advocates on behalf of victims. We understand that being there for our clients means not only through the trial but also through an appeal, if necessary. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Determining Fault in Multi-Party Washington, D.C. Accidents, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, June 9, 2016

Motions for Summary Judgment in Washington, D.C. Courts, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, May 9, 2016

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