Overview of Amendments to New Jersey’s Evidence Rules, Effective July 1, 2020

The increasing use of electronic discovery in litigation and the attendant high risk of inadvertent disclosures has led the New Jersey Supreme Court to adopt amendments to New Jersey’s Evidence Rule 530 (Waiver of Privilege by Contract or Previous Disclosure). The Court also adopted amendments to N.J.R.E. 608 (Evidence of a Witness’s Character for Truthfulness or Untruthfulness), and has ordered the restyling of 46 other Rules of Evidence. These amendments are effective July 1, 2020.

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Authenticating Social Media Evidence at Trial

Social media is ubiquitous in our cyber-connected world. For many, the first thing a person does when they wake up, and the last thing that person does when they go to bed is read, post, or otherwise interact with platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and the like. For litigants in a lawsuit the potential to unwittingly post something online that is not thought through or carefully composed can be a trap. Attorneys look at social media presence in their quest for evidence, and discovery requests for social media posts are commonplace in deposition notices, preservation requests, fact sheets, interrogatories, and requests to produce.

Social media is subject to Rules of Evidence principles, including relevancy, authenticity, hearsay, and the probative value of evidence in light of its potential for unfair prejudice. Lorraine v. Markel Am. Ins. Co., 241 F.R.D. 534 (D. Md. 2007). Of these, authentication at trial is thought to be the “greatest challenge.” Hon. Paul W. Grimm, et al., Authentication of Social Media Evidence, 36 Am. J. Trial Advoc. 433, 439 (2013). Authentication of social media evidence is more complicated than showing a witness a printout with an account name and photo alongside the commentary − and for good reason. As the Third Circuit has recognized, social media evidence presents special challenges because of “the great ease with which a social media account may be falsified or a legitimate account may be accessed by an impostor.” United States v. Browne, 834 F.3d 403 (3d. Cir. 2016).
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Whither Roberti? The Cockroach Precedent − An Exercise in Magical, Wishful Thinking

Amateur philosophers, bar flies, and eulogists, among others, are known to wistfully observe that nothing dies so long as it is remembered and discussed. That’s a comforting sentiment when it comes to loved ones and legacies, but it can be mischievous and bothersome when applied to fallen case law. The long, drawn-out demise of Roberti v. Andy’s Termite & Pest Control. Inc., 113 Cal.App.4th 893 (2003) is a case in point, so to speak.

Pre-Roberti Expert Admissibility Standards – The Kelly/Frye Rule and a Suggestion of Daubert

Roberti is part of a much longer story about California’s journey to adoption of Daubert-style reliability gatekeeping for the testimony of expert witnesses.

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Alternative Medical Cause Arguments Require Supporting Defense Expert Testimony in Illinois

A recent Appellate Court opinion in a premises liability case alleging back pain has the potential to be a pain in the neck for defense lawyers seeking to argue for possible alternative causes of plaintiff’s injuries in a personal injury cases in Illinois. In Campbell v. Autenreib,  109 N.E.3d 332 (2018), the Fifth District held that testimony about the potential alternative causes of plaintiff’s injuries elicited through cross-examination of the plaintiff’s treating physician was too speculative to be admitted in the absence of any defense expert testimony supporting the alternative causes. This opinion expands on the Illinois Supreme Court’s opinion in Voykin v. Estate of DeBoer, 192 Ill. 2d 49 (2000), which held that in most cases defendants must present expert testimony about the relevance of a prior injury or medical condition in a personal injury case.

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Keeping Summary Judgment Strong

In this age of exorbitant costs and increasingly high stakes in civil litigation, a robust summary judgment mechanism – one capable of terminating cases lacking in merit long before the extraordinary expense of final trial preparation and trial – is simply critical to a properly functioning civil litigation system.

Recently, Division 8 of the Second Appellate District, California Court of Appeal did its part by contributing to several ongoing debates in California law related to the admissibility of expert declarations offered to oppose motions for summary judgment. Fernandez v. Alexander, 2019 WL 336517 (Jan. 28, 2019)(certified for publication). The court weighed in, at least implicitly, on these important issues:

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