Maniglia v. Carpenter
November 4, 2015
3rd DCA

Improper Evidence Exclusion

The 3rd DCA recently held that a trial court wrongly excluded evidence of a Plaintiff’s drunken golf cart ride and subsequent police brawl. In September 2009, a vehicle driven by Maniglia and a vehicle driven by Carpenter collided on I-95. Carpenter alleged that upon changing lanes, Maniglia swerved into him and sideswiped his vehicle, while Maniglia maintained that it was just a bump.

Carpenter saw a chiropractor the day after the accident. Several weeks later Carpenter played in a golf tournament and drove a golf cart out onto the road, ran a red light, and collided with another car. The police showed up to the scene, and Carpenter got into a brawl with the officers that included kicking and wrestling.

There was evidence that Carpenter was intoxicated; that he did not have permission to use the golf cart; that he yelled profanity at the police and kicked both feet against the rear passenger window of the police car; and that he was arrested on the scene for battery on a law enforcement officer. Carpenter failed to report this incident to his chiropractor, and evidence submitted by Maniglia showed that Carpenter’s surgery recommendation was only made after the golf cart accident.

The trial court only allowed certain portions of this golf cart incident to come into evidence. The 3rd DCA stated that the golf cart incident included facts that addressed both Carpenter’s credibility and his proof of causation, and Carpenter’s failure to mention the recent golf cart incident to his chiropractor may have affected the jury’s evaluation of Carpenter’s credibility. The court also held that the particulars of his fall and struggle with police would have been an adequate basis for jury instructions on intervening causes and subsequent injuries.

The court reversed and remanded for a new trial. It is important to remember that a judge is the gatekeeper of evidence. If the judge deems the evidence will be useful to a jury in rendering their decision, that evidence will come in. At Tuttle Law, P.A. we understand the importance of these evidentiary decisions, and we prepare arguments for multiple scenarios.