Woman allowed to introduce evidence of defendant driver's guilty plea; injury verdict upheld
Nicole Motyka sued Fawzea Bassam Abusalah and Ahmed Shafik Khalil for auto neglience. She also sued her own no fault insurer, Titan, after it stopped paying for her accident-related medical expenses. At trial against Abusalah, she achieved a verdict that ultimately became a judgment of $183,000.00. Abusalah's insurance company appealed, arguing that the verdict should be over-turned because the judge allowed Motyka's attorneys to cross-examine Abusalah with her statement in District Court accepting responsibility for the collision. The defendants also argued that they should have been allowed to cross-examine Motyka at length about her dispute with her own insurer.The Court of Appeals rejected the defendants' insurer's arguments and upheld the Judgment. It noted that while a responsibility plea is expressly excluded from the party admissions which are considered exceptions to the hearsay rule, and therefore cannot be admitted into evidence under that rule, they can be admitted under the "prior inconsistent testimony" rule. Thus, the Plaintiff cannot offer the prior admission of responsibilty to prove fault but if the defendant testifies contrary to his or her admission of fault, the prior acknowledgement of responsibility can be admitted to impeach.
TheCourt also held that the trial judge exercised appropriate discretion with respect to the insurance company's cross-examination about PIP medical expenses. The judge allowed the insurance attorney to confirm that the injured lady had no fault medical coverage and was suing them to cover medical expenses, but it barred further inquiry into this irrelevant subject matter, since medical expenses were not recoverable in the third-party claim. The cross-examination was admissible only with regard to Motyka's claim that she discontinued treatment because she could no longer pay for it.