Discovery is an important part of the litigation process in any car accident lawsuit because this permits the issues in the case to be narrowed and each side to investigate the facts and allegations made by the opposing party. Skillful use of discovery tools and close attention to the information provided could mean the difference between a substantial settlement or verdict and an outcome favorable to the defense. While a party might have valid objections to answering certain questions, providing false information, misrepresentations, or material nondisclosure could have dire consequences. In this blog post, our experienced car accident attorneys review a decision from the Florida Court of Appeals reversing the dismissal of an injury victim’s claim despite allegations of fraud perpetrated upon the court.
In the recent case of Duarte v. Snap-On, Incorporated, a motorist suffered a serious injury after an intoxicated truck driver plowed into his car while traveling at freeway speed. The trucking company did not dispute liability based on the actions of its employee, but the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries were fiercely contested. The issue of damages was complicated by the fact that the injury victim was involved in a second collision between the time of the first crash and resolution of the lawsuit involving the initial accident.
The defendants sought to have the case dismissed based on allegations that the plaintiff failed to respond to discovery requests with sufficient candor and truthfulness. The trucking company requested the names of all doctors and other medical providers who treated the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s initial response to this request identified eight medical providers that performed treatment during the period of January 2008 and April 2012. The plaintiff later amended his response by adding additional medical providers which included a chiropractic facility and a radiology office during the period between March and June 2012. When the truck driver subsequently requested similar information, much of the same information was provided, but the chiropractic center and radiology centers were not disclosed. The plaintiff also responded to a question asking if the plaintiff had been in any subsequent accidents with the response “not that I remember.”
When the plaintiff was deposed, he mentioned the subsequent rear-ender, but he did not regard it as an accident. His testimony during the deposition was that the other vehicle “touched” his car and left quickly.
The defendants filed a motion to dismiss based on allegations of the plaintiff perpetrating a fraud upon the court by providing false testimony about the severity of his injuries and omitting information about visits to the chiropractor and radiology offices. The trial judge made its ruling and granted the motion entirely based on the motion and supporting documents filed by the defendants.
On appeal, the 2nd DCA observed that a trial judge can dismiss a case if a fraud is committed upon the court, but the dismissal was improper without the plaintiff being provided notice and a full evidentiary hearing to contest the request for dismissal. The court also emphasized the higher burden of proof of clear and convincing evidence in a hearing to prove a fraud upon the court. The more rigorous burden of proof is designed to balance the goals of preventing fraud in court while safeguarding a parties right to be he heard.
Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano: Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Miami-Dade County Car Accidents
Our Miami car accident lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano diligently fight for the fullest financial compensation for our clients. For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted auto accident injury victims in actions across South Florida. We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Our skill and dedication have earned us an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.