Despite misuse of police report and admission of improper testimony, court does not reverse jury verdict
Pia Robertson sued State Farm to recover Uninsured Motorist Coverage benefits after she rolled her car in the freeway median near Troy. She alleged that another car moved into her lane and contacted her car, causing the loss of control. The investigating police office did not believe there was any such contact and prepared his UD- 10 accordingly. State Farm writes its UMC policies to require that such contact be proven in order to pay benefits.When the case came to trial, the Defense Attorney displayed the UD-10 police report to the jury during Opening Statement, despite the statute rendering the police report inadmissible in a civil action. Although the officer wasn't an expert and had no training in reconstruction, the trial judge allowed the defense attorney to elicit the fact that the officer had an opinion about whether there was a missing vehicle and also allowed him to elicit the fact that the officer did not take any action to attempt to identify a missing vehicle, before ruling that his actual opinion was not admissible in evidence. The court also allowed the defense attorney to show the jury a medical report from EMTs that could not be substantiated for admission into evidence.
As a result of the defense attorneys misbehavior and the lower court's errors, the jury got the full flavor of the officer's opinions, and were exposed to several pieces of damaging, inadmissible evidence. Not surprisingly, the jury returned a verdict of no cause of action. On appeal Kirsten Kelly and two other judges upheld the verdict--despite the defense attorney's abuse of the rules--concluding that the "errors" committed by the insurance attorney were "harmless" and cumulative. It is no surprise that Judge Kirsten Kelly ruled in this manner--she rules for the insurer in virtually every case; nevertheless, it is surprising that the other judges signed on to the opinion.