In a recent state appellate decision, a Florida court upheld a jury’s verdict in favor of a plaintiff who was seriously injured after being rear-ended by a van while stopped in traffic on the Buckman Bridge. The case required the court to determine whether the plaintiff’s case improperly relied upon the stacking of multiple inferences in light of the fact that the plaintiff’s evidence was circumstantial in nature. Ultimately, the court determined that the plaintiff’s claim was not reliant upon the improper stacking of inferences and affirmed the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff.
There are two types of evidence: direct and circumstantial. Direct evidence is evidence that tends to prove a conclusion without the need for any inference. For example, eyewitness testimony that a driver made a lane change without signaling would be considered direct evidence that the driver changed lanes and did not signal.
On the other hand, circumstantial evidence requires at least one inference to be made before reaching a conclusion. Circumstantial evidence is also known as “smoking gun” evidence. For example, if a man is shot and turns around only to see a woman with a smoking gun in her hand, the man’s observations are circumstantial evidence that the woman shot him. It is not direct evidence because he did not see the woman pull the trigger. However, it can be inferred that the fact the gun was smoking means that it was recently fired.