Verdict against police officer who ran red light is upheld; tax records are admitted in response to defense counsel's challenge
Michael Beydoun was hurt in a car accident when a City of Detroit police officer ran a red light at an intersection and broad-sided Beydoun's car. The trial judge dismissed the case against the officer, Charles Wills, finding that he was protected by government immunity because he was not guilty of "gross negligence." The judge allowed the case to go to trial against the City, however, as a governmental agency is responsible for ordinary negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle owned by it.
The jury returned a verdict that included $250,000.00 for pain and suffering, half-a-million dollars for lost income in the years prior to trial, and 1.4 million dollars in future lost income (before reduction to present value). The City appealed. It argued first that the Court should have directed a verdict in its favor because the officer testified he was operating with lights and siren. The Court agreed with the trial judge, however, that video from the police car and bystander witness testimony was sufficient to create a jury question with regard to whether the cruiser was operated negligently. Under the applicable statute, safety officers are granted the right to enter an intersection against traffic controls, but only if they can complete the maneuver safely.The City also argued that Beydoun, a builder-designer-contractor should not have been allowed to admit his tax records. Apparently the Plaintiff had not listed the records as an exhibit. Attempting to take advantage of this omission, at trial Defense Counsel repeatedly challenged the plaintiff to support his income loss testimony with tax records demonstrating prior injuries. When he did, defense counsel was "hoisted by his own petard" as the records substantiated Plaintiff's claims. The higher court agreed with the trial judge that fairness allowed the Plaintiff to respond to counsel's attack and demand for records. Be careful what you wish for...
The Court also held that the evidence presented reasonably supported the jury's verdict. It found no evidence of bias, prejudice or sympathy that influenced the outcome of the trial or the jury's award.