- Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Texas truck accident case discussing an important issue regarding what constitutes inappropriate comments with respect to a plaintiff’s ethnicity or immigration status. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff should be granted a new trial after defense counsel made several comments alluding to the plaintiff’s inability to legally work in the United States.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was injured in an accident with the defendant truck driver. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant made an illegal lane change and collided with her vehicle. According to the plaintiff, after the accident the defendant apologized for causing the accident, and admitted that it was his fault. The defendant later took back those statements, claiming that when he learned more about how the accident occurred, and the plaintiff’s role in causing it, he no longer believed he was at fault.
The plaintiff was not legally permitted to work in the United States and the defense counsel hoped to bring that fact to the attention of the jury. However, in a pre-trial motion, the court disallowed comments on the plaintiff’s immigration status.
The case proceeded to trial, and both the plaintiff and the defendant testified through a Spanish interpreter. In support of her claim, the plaintiff presented a medical expert who testified as to the expected cost of the future medical care that she would require. During cross-examination, defense counsel questioned the witness about whether he was aware if the plaintiff was “going to continue living in the United States.” Defense counsel also asked if certain forms were written in Spanish, implying that the plaintiff could not complete them if they were in English.
The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the plaintiff claimed that defense counsel’s comments about her ethnicity and immigration status impermissibly tainted the jury, leaving her without a fair trial.
The court agreed with the plaintiff. First, the court explained that normally a party must object at the time of the allegedly impermissible testimony, giving the court an opportunity to instruct the jury to disregard it. However, if a party fails to object, the error may still be reversible if it is “incurably prejudicial.”
Here, the court determined that defense counsel’s comments were both improper and incurably prejudicial. Defense counsel argued that the comments were too subtle to be picked up on by the jury. However, the court explained that “incurable reversible error occurs whenever any attorney suggests, either openly or with subtlety and finesse, that a jury feel solidarity with or animus toward a litigant or a witness because of race or ethnicity.” Thus, the court granted the plaintiff a new trial.
Have You Been Injured in a Texas Truck Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Texas truck accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated San Antonio personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Carabin Shaw have extensive experience representing injury victims and their family members in all types of Texas motor vehicle accidents, including car and truck accidents. To learn more, call 210-222-2288 to schedule a free consultation today.
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