Discovery Abuse in Mississippi Motor Vehicle Accident Case

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It is critical that a Mississippi plaintiff provide honest responses to discovery and to his or her attorney. Failure to be completely truthful can result in the dismissal of a plaintiff’s case. In a recent personal injury case, a plaintiff’s claims were dismissed with prejudice for willful discovery violations. A man and his wife had sued the Mississippi Authority on Educational Television for injuries they claimed resulted from a motor vehicle accident caused by an employee of the company. The plaintiff claimed injuries to his knees, back, neck, and arms, and his wife sought damages for loss of consortium, services, and companionship.

Two years after the couple filed a complaint, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss. In the motion, the defendants argued that the couple gave false testimony about the man’s medical history, the reason for the man’s disability, and whether the wife had sought similar damages in a nursing home negligence lawsuit involving her father. The couple argued that any inconsistencies had been resolved by their deposition testimony.

At the hearing for the motion, the defendants noted that the man had not disclosed his back injury, previous surgeries, and a post-accident injury to his leg. During the man’s deposition, he admitted to his prior injuries, but he consistently denied his left knee surgery even though he had undergone surgery on both knees.

The defendants claimed that the couple had given false deposition testimony about why the man was disabled. During the discovery phase, the man had filed for Social Security disability. The application asked about any injuries that limited his ability to work, and the man had listed heart problems, diabetes, tension, and gout, in addition to the motor vehicle injury, as reasons he was unable to work. Moreover, at deposition, the wife had been asked if she was seeking damages for nursing services in a nursing home negligence case, and she said that she wasn’t.

The court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss on the grounds that the couple had committed discovery abuse, and their deposition testimony included willful misrepresentations. The couple appealed, arguing that the trial court had abused its discretion. The appellate court explained that a dismissal for discovery abuse is only appropriate under the most extreme circumstances.

The factors that go into whether the trial court has abused its discretion under Rule 37 by dismissing a lawsuit with prejudice when the failure to comply with a court’s order is the result of willfulness or bad faith, not an inability to follow the order. It is also appropriate for the court to consider whether the other party’s trial preparation was substantially prejudiced by the discovery abuse. Dismissal is likely to be found inappropriate if the problems stem from a misunderstanding of the court’s order.

The appellate court explained that the primary purpose of the rules of procedure is to promote the ends of justice. The appellate court further explained that justice can’t be given on the basis of false testimony and that Rule 37(e) specifically gave trial courts the authority to dismiss a case with prejudice as may be just.

The trial court found the plaintiffs’ pattern of lying and concealment to be willful and an intentional attempt to subvert the judicial process. In this case, the lower court had properly ruled on whether the discovery violations resulted from willfulness or bad faith. The second consideration was whether the goal of Rule 37 could be achieved by lesser sanctions. The third issue was whether the defendants had suffered prejudice because of the discovery violation. However, there is no requirement that a defendant be found to be substantially prejudiced by the plaintiffs’ tactics. Major inconvenience and general frustration are enough. The fourth factor was whether the abuse was attributable to the plaintiff’s attorneys. In this case, the plaintiffs themselves made misrepresentations. The dismissal was affirmed.

If you are hurt in a motor vehicle accident, the experienced Mississippi personal injury attorneys of Coxwell & Associates may be able to build a strong case on your behalf. Contact us for a consultation.

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Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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