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Couple’s trial strategy worked against them

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A couple who consented to an entry of judgment on the evidence against them in a negligence claim in order to appeal the evidentiary rulings lost their case in the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Mary Barrix and her husband sued Kristopher Jackson and Graves Plumbing Co. Inc. for negligence after Barrix was involved in a car accident with Jackson while he was in the scope of his employment.

The Barrixes retained neurologist Dr. William Fulton to perform a medical evaluation of Barrix. He concluded Barrix suffered a 1 percent permanent partial impairment because of her ongoing pain. At a 2012 deposition of Fulton – who was unable to testify during trial – the defendants objected to the doctor’s testimony concerning the content of the medical records upon which he based his evaluation of Barrix’s condition. At trial, the defendants also objected to the admissibility of his deposition and the medical records and bills he relied upon.

After hearing oral argument and the Barrixes’ offer of proof, the trial court sustained the defendants’ objection, at which time the Barrixes rested their case and stated they would appeal the evidentiary ruling. The defendants moved for judgment on the evidence, which the court granted.

The appellate judges affirmed, finding the Barrixes couldn’t show reversible error as a result of the exclusion of Fulton’s deposition testimony from the evidence, and that any such error was invited. The Barrixes never directed the trial court to specific portions of the testimony that may have been admissible without the admission of prior doctors’ opinions and diagnoses, Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote.

In addition, the court didn’t abuse its discretion when it excluded Barrix’s medical bills from evidence, and the plaintiffs failed to submit even the minimal amount of evidence required to avoid entry of judgment on the evidence in this case.  

“Rather than seek a continuance or an interlocutory appeal, the Barrixes, through counsel, effectively consented to entry of judgment on the evidence against them in order to appeal the trial court’s evidentiary rulings. Here, the strategy worked to their peril,” he wrote.

 

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