Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Evidence of other accidents in products liability cases is relevant to show notice to the defendant of the danger, to show existence of the danger, and to show the cause of the accident. However, before such evidence will be admitted, the proponent must show that the other accidents occurred under substantially similar circumstances.
The plaintiffs, Edward E. Nachtsheim and Production Tool Corporation (Production Tool), brought this products liability action against the defendant, Beech Aircraft Corporation (Beech). Jurisdiction was based on diversity of citizenship, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The suit arose from an aircraft accident in which the deceased, William W. Steil, was killed. Mr. Steil was the President of Production Tool. He was piloting a company aircraft on January 8, 1978 when the plane crashed near Tylertown, Mississippi. The case was tried to a jury on theories of negligence, strict liability, and failure to warn. Mr. Steil's estate sought damages for wrongful death; Production Tool sought damages for the value of the aircraft. After a two-week trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. The district court entered judgment in accordance with the verdict and subsequently denied the plaintiffs' motion for a new trial. In this appeal, the plaintiffs challenged under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 61 a number of the district court's evidentiary rulings.
Was the evidence of an accident that occurred one year later properly excluded?
The court affirmed finding evidence of an accident that occurred one year later was properly excluded as if the accident did not occur under sufficiently similar circumstances to have been relevant after balancing the probative value of the testimony against its prejudicial effect under Fed. R. Evid. 403. Testimony about accident that occurred one year later was properly excluded under Fed. R. Evid. 703 as the trial judge did not erroneously limit the scope of the expert testimony. The court found the entire report of evidence of an incident with the same aircraft was properly excluded. The court found the report was reliable under Fed. R. Evid. 803(b) it was properly excluded, as there was a portion of the report that was not from personal knowledge. The court also found the trial court properly excluded government bulletins, as plaintiff was not able to provide information about the article's author.