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COA allows for admission of vehicle photo in personal injury action

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The Indiana Court of Appeals addressed for the first time the issue of whether a photograph admitted at trial showing little damage to a truck involved in an accident is inadmissible on the grounds that it’s irrelevant to any determination of bodily injury.

Raymond Flores challenged the trial court’s determination that he is entitled to no damages arising out of his car accident with Juan Rocha Gutierrez, who hit Flores’ stopped vehicle. After the accident, Flores was able to drive his vehicle home.

Flores went to his doctor the next day to seek care for back and neck pain. He hurt his back in 1999 as the result of another car accident and was diagnosed with arthritis, scoliosis, and degenerative disc disease. His treatment for injuries from that accident ended in 2001. While he was receiving treatment for the latest car accident, Flores fell on some ice at his workplace and filed a workers’ compensation claim. He never mentioned the fall to his doctor.

Default judgment regarding liability was entered against Gutierrez, who was unable to be located, but Flores had to prove proximate cause, injury, and damages. The trial court did not grant Flores’ request to keep defense Exhibit D, a photograph of his car after the accident showing little or no damage to it, or any references to his workers’ compensation claim from being mentioned at trial. The jury awarded Flores zero damages.

In Raymond Flores v. Juan P. Rocha Gutierrez, No. 45A04-1101-CT-28, Flores challenged the admission of the photograph of his truck. He pointed to Davis v. Maute, 770 A.2d 36, 40 (Del. 2001), to support his argument that the photograph was irrelevant to determining his injuries. But Davis – which reversed admission of photographs of property damage for purposes of establishing injury and held that expert testimony must be included to admit the photographs – has since been limited to its facts, wrote Judge Cale Bradford. A later case out of Delaware said Davis shouldn’t be construed broadly to require expert testimony in every case in order for jurors to be allowed to see photographs of cars in accidents, and other jurisdictions have rejected the Davis reasoning.

The trial court admitted the photograph of Flores’ car because it was relevant to his personal injury claim, and it concluded that the damage, or lack thereof, to his car had some tendency to prove or disprove facts relating to his personal injury claim. Even Flores’ physician observed the commonsense relationship between property damage and personal injury, the judge noted.

The COA also rejected Flores’ argument that the photo was more prejudicial than probative and should have been excluded under Ind. Evidence Rule 403. The court also upheld the finding of zero damages, noting that the evidence showed Flores had multiple pre-existing back problems with multiple causes. The appellate court said the doctor’s diagnosis that some of Flores’ issues were related to the accident was attributable to an incomplete record and that Flores’ had credibility problems.

The judges also affirmed the trial court’s decision to allow references to Flores’ 2010 fall at work, his workers’ compensation claim, and the admission of certain medical records.

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  1. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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