In any civil trial, the entity charged with weighing the evidence and issuing a verdict (whether it’s a jury in a jury trial or a judge in a bench trial) has many tasks. One of the most important ones is deciding which witnesses are credible and which are not. The law gives a jury (or a judge in a bench trial) wide breadth in making these decisions. That latitude figured into a recent Louisiana Court of Appeal decision upholding a judgment in favor of an injured driver. Although witnesses differed on who ran the red light, the trial judge was within his bounds to find the injured driver’s witnesses more credible.
The accident leading to this case involved a fairly common set of facts. In March 2014, Vicke Mosley was driving south on a four-lane road in Shreveport when she approached an intersection that was regulated by traffic lights. Mosley drove through the intersection where her car collided with that of Jacob Griffin, who was driving east on the intersecting road. Each driver claimed that their light was green. The testimony of other witnesses was mixed, with some saying Mosley entered the intersection on a yellow light and others pointing to Griffin for advancing while his light was red.
Mosley sued Griffin for her injuries and the damage to her vehicle. At trial, the court took the testimony of the two drivers and other witnesses. The court also took into evidence a traffic signal inventory document that dated to 2011, as well as holding a conversation with the city engineer for Shreveport. Based upon all of this, the court concluded that Griffin was wholly at fault for the accident. The court awarded Mosley $15,000 for her injuries and $2,000 for the damage to her vehicle.
Griffin appealed, but lost. He first tried to argue that, because the testimony in the case presented two diametrically opposed depictions of what happened in the intersection that day, the trial court should have dismissed the case. This was incorrect. In Mosley’s case, she offered her own testimony that she advanced under a green light, the testimony of the driver who was behind Griffin who testified that Griffin advanced under a red light, and the testimony of the driver behind her who initially stated that Mosley went through under a red light but later modified her position to state that Mosley’s light was yellow. The law gives the trier of fact considerable latitude to make determinations about which witnesses are credible and which are not. In this case, the court was within its scope to decide that these drivers were more credible than Griffin. The appeals court also noted that Griffin’s status as a convicted felon further damaged his credibility.
Also, the appeals court was not persuaded that the trial judge’s conversation with the city engineer was improper. The main reason this argument failed related to proper court procedure. The trial judge twice announced his intention to call the engineer. Griffin’s lawyer never objected. After the trial judge announced the judgment, and included the discussion with the engineer among the reasons for the outcome, Griffin’s lawyer did not ask for a new trial. While the trial court ideally should have held his conversation with the engineer on the record, its failure to do so, in light of Griffin’s failure to raise the issue prior to the appeal process, was not a basis for overturning the verdict. Additionally, the conversation merely served to clarify the information in the inventory document, which was part of the trial case record.
If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, the experienced Louisiana injury attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm can help you with getting the compensation the law says you are entitled to. Our attorneys have many years of experience helping injured people like you. For your confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.
More Blog Posts:
Louisiana Driver Waved into Intersection by Another Driver Held 100% Responsible for Wreck, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Dec. 16, 2015
Louisiana Man Recovers Cost of Medical Care for Bitten Nose in Road Rage Altercation, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Nov. 12, 2015