JLG Trucking, LLC v. Garza, 2015 Tex. LEXIS 346 (Tex. April 24, 2016)
In February we blogged about a decision by the San Antonio Court of Appeals that required expert testimony on causation before a defendant could introduce evidence of injuries from a second car accident. You can see the previous blog post at: /blog/2015/02/2-1-hire-an-expert-to-figure-it-out.shtml. On April 24, 2015, the Texas Supreme Court reversed that decision.
In July of 2008 an 18-wheeler driven by JLG rear-ended a truck driven by Lauren Garza. In October of 2008, Ms. Garza was involved in a second collision. During pretrial, Ms. Garza moved to exclude evidence of the second accident on relevancy grounds. The trial court granted Ms. Garza's motion.
JLG appealed arguing that evidence of the second accident was relevant. The appellate court affirmed. JLG then sought relief from the Texas Supreme Court.
The Decision by the Texas Supreme Court:
The Texas Supreme Court first addressed the relevancy of the second accident. The Texas Supreme Court noted that the injuries from the second accident were consistent with those complained of from the first accident. Therefore, the second accident was relevant.
The Texas Supreme Court next determined that the burden on causation had been improperly shifted to JLG. By requiring JLG to establish that the second accident caused the alleged injuries by expert testimony, the lower courts missed the mark.
What to Take Away:
In a negligence case, a defendant's initial evidentiary hurdle is relevancy. On the other hand, a plaintiff's evidentiary hurdle is to show causation by adequate evidence.
When defending in the circumstance of two events that could have produced injuries, a defendant can admit evidence of the event not complained of without expert testimony. This is true as long as the injuries from the other event are similar to the injuries from the alleged injury-causing event. Expert testimony, however, is encouraged to lend plausibility to this type of defense.