An Iowa Plaintiff Claimed the Trial Court Wrongly Excluded Evidence – The Iowa Court of Appeals Disagrees

Posted on: December 13th, 2016

Gilberto Mendez Mendez sued an apartment building owner and the building manager after slipping and falling down a flight of exterior stairs.  At trial, a jury found the owner and building manager were not at fault.  Mendez challenged the verdict on appeal.  Specifically, Mendez took issue with the trial court’s exclusion of two items of evidence:  (1) a cell phone video of the area where the accident took place and (2) deposition testimony of a psychologist who had previously examined Mendez.

The cell phone video depicted the area were Mendez fell and showed the stair and sidewalks covered in snow.  The trial court excluded the video because it was taken almost eleven months after plaintiff’s accident and, as such, did not resemble the condition of the stairs at the time of the accident.  Plaintiff designated a psychologist, Dr. Luis Rosell, as his expert witness.   Mendez stated his expert had not been retained for trial, but was a fact witness with specialized education, training, and experience.

On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the video should have been admissible as impeachment evidence as to the building manager’s testimony that the stairs were never covered in snow. The Court ruled that because the video was taken months after plaintiff’s accident and did not depict the condition of the stairs at the time of the accident, its impeachment value was marginal and the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding the video.

With respect to the expert testimony, Plaintiff argued Dr. Rosell’s deposition testimony should have been admitted on the issue of whether the fall caused Plaintiff’s cognitive defects. However, Iowa law is clear that an “improper ruling on evidence offered to prove damages is not reversible error when the jury finds in favor of the defendant on liability.”  The Court found that the claimed error related only to evidence dealing with causation and damages, not plaintiff’s right to recover.  As such, the trial court’s exclusion of the testimony could never be deemed an abuse of discretion.

Gilberto Mendez Marquez v. Donald P. Lacinia and Westwinds Real Estate Services, Inc. No. 15-1745

Read more news articles »