The Florida Rules of Civil Procedure outline the various ways in which parties to a lawsuit can discover information before trial. The most popular discovery vehicles are depositions, interrogatories, and requests for admissions. While these vehicles often help parties prove their case, they can serve another important function of impeaching inconsistent testimony.
We are three weeks before the start of trial in a premises liability case against a condominium association and a general contractor. Our client, a 78 year old woman, sustained serious injuries, including a broken humerus, when she fell into a hole at night in a wood deck under repair. The deck ran behind a line of townhomes. Our client was a guest at a party at one of the townhomes when she decided to take a stroll on the deck. The portion of the deck where she started out and for some fifty feet to the west had been repaired months before. The accident happened where the finished deck met the deck under repair. The hole into which she fell was created by the general contractor who had removed the old boards with the intent of replacing them.
With regard to the issue of liability, the question is whether the general contractor had installed a barrier across the deck to prevent people from inadvertently walking into the zone of danger. The general contractor was asked that question, in a few different forms, under oath last year in deposition. He answered No to each query. A few months later we propounded requests for admissions on the same general contractor asking him to admit or deny that barriers were installed across the deck. He responded by denying that barriers were installed across the deck.
Yesterday, the general contractor was back under oath testifying in a videotaped deposition scheduled by the defendant condo association. Lo and behold, this time around he claimed that his company had installed the barriers. While we considered waiting until trial to confront him with his previous answers, we decided that it was better to know if he had a sensible explanation for the clear differences, so we confronted him on the spot with his prior responses. We did this by reading the questions and answers into the record. As the video camera rolled, he stumbled through a ridiculous explanation.
It is clear through other evidence that the general contractor had not installed the barrier before the accident. Back when he testified truthfully, the general contractor believed that other circumstances put him in the clear and all the fault on the condo association. Subsequent discovery weakened that theory, so yesterday the GC scrambled to save his skin. Thanks to solid pretrial discovery, the GC did himself far more harm than good.
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Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.
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