Plaintiffs who make a premises liability or other personal injury claim in Florida are often required to testify at the trial. A victim’s testimony can be used to describe how an injury occurred or to explain the effects that an injury has had on their quality of life. In cases of injuries with no eyewitnesses, surveillance footage, or other documentary evidence of a plaintiff’s injury, the plaintiff’s testimony can be the most crucial evidence in the case. Because a jury often decides cases based on the credibility and trustworthiness of a witness, defendants will often try to smear a plaintiff’s credibility so that a jury will not believe the testimony. The Florida Court of Appeal recently affirmed a trial judge’s ruling, which allowed the defendant’s counsel to attack the credibility of a personal injury plaintiff during cross-examination.
The plaintiff in the recently decided case was allegedly injured in a slip and fall incident at the defendant’s retail store. According to the facts discussed in the judicial opinion, the alleged slip-and-fall was not caught on camera, and the plaintiff’s credibility was a central feature of the trial. Before trial, the defense had asked the plaintiff’s attorney to furnish income and other financial information as part of the discovery process. The plaintiff’s attorney refused the request, responding that the requested information was not relevant to the plaintiff’s claims.
At trial, the plaintiff testified about what happened on the day of the incident. Defense counsel cross-examined the plaintiff, bringing up that their attorney refused to supply the requested income information. The questions were permitted despite the plaintiff’s objection that the questioning was irrelevant and damaged the plaintiff’s credibility. After the trial, the jury came back with a verdict in favor of the defendant.