The First Department, in ordering a new trial, determined the trial judge should not have given a missing witness charge with respect to one of plaintiff’s doctors and should have given an adverse inference charge based upon a defense expert’s failure to bring her notes, which were subpoenaed:
The party seeking a missing witness charge has the burden of promptly notifying the court when the need for such a charge arises … . The purpose of imposing such a burden is, in part, to permit the parties “to tailor their trial strategy to avoid substantial possibilities of surprise” … . Once the party requesting the charge meets its initial burden, the party opposing the request can defeat it by demonstrating that, among other things, the witness was not available, was outside of its control, or the issue about which the witness would have been called to testify is immaterial … .
Here, the record does not reflect when defendants asked for a missing witness charge for Dr. Rose. This presents the possibility that they did not do so until after plaintiff presented her case. Had that been so, plaintiff would have lost any opportunity to account for Dr. Rose’s absence, argue that plaintiff did not have the requisite control over him, or attempt to procure his appearance. Accordingly, since there is no indication that defendants met their burden, we find that the missing witness charge was improperly given. * * *
…[W]hile Dr. Elkin [a defense expert] did not, as plaintiff suggests, testify that she “destroyed” her notes, she did concede that she did not comply with the subpoena, which required her to bring with her to court the notes that she used in generating her report on behalf of defendants. The failure to produce those notes affected plaintiff’s ability to cross-examine defendants’ expert and was fundamentally unfair to plaintiff. At the least, it would have been appropriate for the court to issue an adverse inference charge … . That Dr. Elkin testified that the notes were subsumed in the report is of no moment. Plaintiff was entitled to independently investigate that claim without having to rely on Dr. Elkin’s own assurances that the notes were themselves of no probative value. Herman v Moore, 2015 NY Slip Op 09352, 1st Dept 12-17-15
MONTHLY COMPILATION INDEX ENTRIES:
EVIDENCE (MISSING WITNESS CHARGE SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GIVEN, NO SHOWING REQUEST WAS TIMELY)/MISSING WITNESS CHARGE (SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GIVEN, NO SHOWING REQUEST WAS TIMELY)/EVIDENCE (ADVERSE INFERENCE CHARGE SHOULD HABE BEEN GIVEN, EXPERT DID NOT BRING SUBPOENAED NOTES)/ADVERSE INFERENCE CHARGE (SHOULD HAVE BEEN GIVEN, EXPERT DID NOT BRING SUBPOENAED NOTES)/JURY INSTRUCTIONS (MISSING WITNESS CHARGE SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GIVEN, NO SHOWING OF TIMELY REQUEST)/JURY INSTRUCTIONS (ADVERSE INFERENCE CHARGE SHOULD HAVE BEEN GIVEN, EXPERT DID NOT BRING SUBPOENAED NOTES)