The acknowledgment by a party that it was he who was at fault is admissible as a declaration against interest. Personal knowledge is not required in the case of an admission by a party. The weight to be attributed by the jury to such an admission depends upon whether it was made by defendant on the basis of his own knowledge or of information imparted to him by others.
Joseph Salvitti, plaintiff, was operating an automobile in which his wife, co-plaintiff, was a passenger. The road was sixteen to eighteen feet wide with but one lane for traffic in each direction. At a point where the highway made a slight curve to the left and began an upgrade Salvitti started to pass a truck traveling in the same direction on the right-hand side of the road and operated by defendant's agent. He blew his horn before proceeding to pass, but when the front of his car was to the left of and about ten feet ahead of the rear of the truck the latter suddenly swerved to the left, blocking him off and compelling him, in order to avoid a collision, to turn likewise sharply to the left, with the result that his car skidded off the road into a tree, causing injuries to himself and wife. The operator of the truck admitted that he heard the horn but denied he cut over to the left; on the contrary, he testified that he turned to the right, brought his truck to a stop, and did nothing to cause the accident. The jury found a verdict for plaintiffs. Subsequent to a verdict in favor of the victims in their action predicated on a vehicular collision between the victim's and the principal's agent, the principal argued that the trial court erred in instructing the jury that a state law prohibiting the passing of a vehicle in certain situations was not applicable to the case.
Did the Court err in affirming the judgment in favor of the victims?
In affirming the verdict in favor of the victims, the court held that the accident was not caused by the victims' violation of the statute. Thus, whether the victims violated the statute was immaterial. The court then held that the principal's later out-of-court statement concerning his responsibility for the accident was considered a proper admission against interest despite the fact that the principal was not present at the time of the accident.