COA Opinion: Trial court abused its discretion by excluding evidence that called into question a witness’s credibility
In Johnson v. Kwalski, the trial court abused its discretion by improperly excluding evidence that may have affected a witness’s credibility. The case involved a medical malpractice claim based on the theory that a doctor left a patient, who later died, unattended and in serious condition while the doctor was called away to a new emergency. At trial and in his deposition, another doctor claimed that, contrary to the plaintiff’s claim, the patient was in stable condition when the first doctor was called away, and she was not left unattended because he was at her bedside when her condition deteriorated. In an attempt to impeach this testimony, the plaintiff’s counsel sought to admit the second doctor’s prior affidavit and correspondence between plaintiff’s counsel and the doctor’s insurance agent, both of which suggested that the second doctor was not with the patient when her condition deteriorated. The trial court allowed plaintiff’s counsel to read the second doctor’s affidavit, but it did not allow counsel to admit the affidavit into evidence, nor did it allow counsel to discuss or admit into evidence the correspondence with the insurance agent. The Court of Appeals held that the affidavit and correspondence were sufficient evidence for a jury to conclude that the second doctor’s testimony was inconsistent, which would have affected its determination of the second doctor’s credibility. The Court went on to state that “so long as some rational jury could resolve the issue in favor of admissibility, the judge must let the jury weigh the disputed facts.” Accordingly, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s opinion and remanded for further proceedings.