Evidence – Hearsay
Where inadmissible hearsay was cumulative, reversal is not required.
“Not only was the improperly admitted evidence cumulative, but the other evidence presented at trial strongly favored the defendants’ position. The jury heard that Binns was an experienced truck driver who traveled this stretch of I-70 approximately 3,000 times over the previous ten years; that when driving through a curve he compensates to ensure his trailer takes the same path as the rear tires of his tractor; and that his goal is to ‘hold the line’ and maintain his lane position through the curve. Betty, on the other hand, had not obtained her motorcycle operator’s license until 2005; was riding a very large motorcycle; was traveling in the left-hand portion of the right lane as she traveled through the curve; and would have had to merge into the center lane soon after making it through the curve, had the accident not occurred. There was also expert testimony demonstrating that Binns could not have been at fault based on principles of inertia, as well as expert testimony that Betty had not been operating her motorcycle in a reasonable manner. (The Jordans also had an expert but they failed to include that evidence in the record, so for purposes of appeal the defendants’ experts’ testimony is undisputed. Cf. Albrechtsen v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Wis. Sys., 309 F.3d 433, 435-36 (7th Cir. 2002).) Thus, even though the central issue at trial was fault, the cumulative nature of the improperly admitted evidence coupled with this additional evidence leads us to conclude that the improper evidence did not have a substantial effect on the jury’s verdict.”
11-2134 Jordan v. Binns
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Lawrence, J., Tinder, J.