The Second Department determined the verdict in this personal injury case should have been set aside because of an evidentiary error. The injured plaintiff’s sister, who was also her guardian, was wrongly questioned about her criminal history and bad acts:
Pursuant to CPLR 4404(a), a court “may set aside a verdict or any judgment entered thereon and direct that judgment be entered in favor of a party entitled to judgment as a matter of law or it may order a new trial of a cause of action or separable issue where the verdict is contrary to the weight of the evidence [or] in the interest of justice” (CPLR 4404[a]…). “A motion pursuant to CPLR 4404(a) to set aside a verdict and for a new trial in the interest of justice encompasses errors in the trial court’s rulings on the admissibility of evidence, mistakes in the charge, misconduct, newly discovered evidence, and surprise” … . In considering such a motion, “[t]he Trial Judge must decide whether substantial justice has been done, whether it is likely that the verdict has been affected . . . and must look to his [or her] own common sense, experience and sense of fairness rather than to precedents in arriving at a decision'” … .
Here, the Supreme Court erred in permitting the defendants to impeach the credibility of the injured plaintiff’s sister on direct examination by questioning her with respect to her criminal history and prior bad acts … . “Indeed, it is well established that an adverse party or a hostile witness may not be impeached on direct examination by evidence of his or her criminal conviction[s]” … . Morency v Horizon Transp. Servs., Inc., 2016 NY Slip Op 04029, 2nd Dept 5-25-16
CIVIL PROCEDURE (SET ASIDE VERDICT, PLAINTIFF’S SISTER WRONGLY IMPEACHED BY QUESTIONS ABOUT HER CRIMINAL HISTORY AND BAD ACTS, TRIAL JUDGE SHOULD HAVE SET ASIDE THE VERDICT)/EVIDENCE (PLAINTIFF’S SISTER WRONGLY IMPEACHED BY QUESTIONS ABOUT HER CRIMINAL HISTORY AND BAD ACTS, TRIAL JUDGE SHOULD HAVE SET ASIDE THE VERDICT)/VERDICT, MOTION TO SET ASIDE (PLAINTIFF’S SISTER WRONGLY IMPEACHED BY QUESTIONS ABOUT HER CRIMINAL HISTORY AND BAD ACTS, TRIAL JUDGE SHOULD HAVE SET ASIDE THE VERDICT)