LinkedIn Twitter Facebook Share this page RSS

Blogs

Missouri Law BlogLegal updates, news, and commentary from the attorneys of Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice LLC

Missouri Court of Appeals Again Rules That Police Officer Testimony as to Fault of Party to Accident is Inadmissible

May 23, 2016 | John Watt

In Ritchie v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., the trial court had allowed an investigating officer to testify that the Plaintiff’s motorcycle had left the roadway in a straight line and that he had found no evidence of another vehicle forcing the Plaintiff off the road.  Over objection, he was permitted to testify that, in his opinion, the cause of the accident was inattention by the Plaintiff.  The jury then returned a verdict in favor of the Defendant and Plaintiff Ritchie appealed.  The Court of Appeals reversed and held that “Missouri courts have uniformly held that a police officer, especially if he or she did not witness the accident, cannot offer an opinion as to the fault of the accident.”  Khan v. Gutsgell, 55 S.W.3d 440, 443 (Mo. App. E.D. 2001).  This is because a jury will likely give undue weight to an officer’s assessment of fault in a traffic accident.  Id.  This rule applies regardless of whether the officer is testifying as an expert witness or not.  Stucker v. Chitwood, 841 S.W.2d 816, 819-20 (Mo. App. S.D. 1992).  The appellate Court held that the officer’s opinions and conclusions were not fact testimony of what he personally observed at the scene.  The Court also found that the testimony materially affected the outcome of the trial, as the case law recognizes an officer’s opinion testimony and fault in an accident will likely be given undue weight and to significantly influence the jury’s resolution on the issue of liability.  Khan, 55 S.W.3d at 443; Stucker, 841 S.W.2d at 820.  

Subscribe
About Missouri Law Blog

The BSCR Missouri Law Blog examines significant developments, trends and changes in Missouri law on a broad range of topics of interest to Missouri practitioners and attorneys and businesses with disputes subject to Missouri law. Learn more about the editor, David Eisenberg.

DISCLAIMER

The Missouri Law Blog is made available by Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice LLC for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. Your use of this blog site alone creates no attorney client relationship between you and the firm.

CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION

Do not include confidential information in comments or other feedback or messages related to the Missouri Law Blog, as these are neither confidential nor secure methods of communicating with attorneys. The Missouri Law Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

 
×

For Important Legal Updates and Resources on the Coronavirus Click Here.