A famous American movie producer was once quoted as saying, “There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth.” This analysis is similar to what happens in civil litigation matters, such as auto accident cases. Each opposing party has a version that it asserts is the truth, while the whole truth may lie somewhere in between. In a dispute in which neither side has an “open and shut” case, success in your auto accident case can often come down to which side presents its case to the jury (or the judge in the case of a bench trial) in a way that seems more credible. A case decided earlier this year by the Louisiana Court of Appeal showed this in clear detail.
The case arose from an auto accident that occurred in New Orleans in the summer of 2013. Aisha Brown sued Kevin Fogg, Fogg’s employer, and the employer’s insurance company, alleging that Fogg rear-ended her when both Fogg and she were making right turns from Elysian Fields Avenue onto Gentilly Boulevard. Fogg claimed that what actually happened was that Brown made a right-hand turn onto Gentilly from the left-hand travel lane of Elysian Fields, causing Brown’s vehicle to strike Fogg, who had been attempting to proceed straight on Elysian Fields in the right-hand travel lane.
Fogg presented a viable case. He testified that he was working when the wreck occurred and that he had no intent of turning onto Gentilly, since making such a turn would mean detouring from the appropriate path to his employment-related destination. Brown’s case was not without its imperfections. Brown’s testimony at trial deviated slightly from some of the statements she had made in the pre-trial phase of the case. Nevertheless, Brown’s overall case was strong enough that the judge in this bench trial ruled in favor of her and awarded the woman and her children damages totaling almost $17,000.
Fogg, the employer, and the insurer appealed the judgment. They argued that the trial judge could not reasonably find that the accident took place in the way Brown described and render a verdict in favor of her, basing this argument on the discrepancies between Brown’s pre-trial responses and her trial testimony. The appeals court denied the appeal and refused to alter the judgment issued by the trial court.
The appeals court, in ruling for Brown, explained that it can only overturn a trial court judgment when the outcome was “clearly wrong.” The law gives juries (or judges in bench trials) wide latitude to make decisions in terms of fact-finding. Deciding which side’s evidence is stronger, and which side’s witnesses are more believable, are some of the jobs of a finder of fact in a trial. For that reason, it “is not the function of the appellate courts to reweigh the evidence or substitute its own findings for that of the trial court.”
In Brown’s case, the trial judge heard two competing versions of what happened that August day at that intersection in New Orleans. Both versions were plausible, and the physical evidence (such as photographs of the vehicles’ damage) was consistent with either of the two drivers’ versions of events. That left the judge to decide which driver was the more credible. The trial judge in this case believed Brown was the more credible, and the appeals court could find nothing “clearly wrong” in that decision.
That’s why it is so important to make sure you put on the best case you possibly can at trial. In most cases, barring some sort of error of law or court procedure, an appeal that challenges the factual determinations of the trial court does not succeed. The diligent and aggressive Louisiana car accident attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm have extensive experience representing injured people and are here to help you put on a strong case and seek the compensation you deserve.
For your confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.
More Blog Posts:
Whom to Pursue When You’re Harmed in a Louisiana Auto Accident Caused by Someone Fleeing the Police, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, June 27, 2016
Louisiana Appeals Court Upholds Judgment Despite Disagreement Among Witnesses Regarding Which Driver Ran Red Light, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, April 8, 2016