May 10, 2018 practice points

Go to the Scene—Part 1: Go the Extra Mile

Sitting in your office is not the "next best thing to being there"

By Hon. Mark A. Drummond

“Long distance is the next best thing to being there.” —Bell Telephone ad, 1974

If either of you guys tells an Adams County jury that your clients were making side-by-side, left-hand turns, at that intersection,” I began, “you’re going to see all 12 of their heads swivel slowly from side to side conveying, ‘No, you can’t!’”

iStockphoto by Getty Images

 I delivered this warning during our second or third jury instruction conference. Finally, before empaneling the jury, I convinced the two attorneys that the direction of travel, alleged in the pleadings and assumed throughout the discovery of the case, was wrong. The two attorneys were both from out of town.

To color the lines in a bit, the case involved two cars side-by-side, both in left turn lanes. The driver in the inner lane was an elderly woman who got confused, freely admitted that she went straight instead of turning, and pled guilty to an improper lane usage charge. So liability was pretty clear. The disputed issues were the force of the collision and the resulting damage.

The plaintiff’s version was that when he pulled up and stopped in the outer lane, there was no one in the inner lane. His claim was that the elderly woman tried to “make the light” and she “T-boned” him.

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