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Florida Court of Appeals Further Defines What “Fraud or Misconduct” Means in Terms of Witness Testimony

It should not come as a surprise, but litigants are not permitted to commit fraud against, or mislead, a court of law. However, in order for a case to get dismissed for fraud or misconduct, the party committing the alleged fraud must know that what they are submitting to the court is not true. In a recent case in front of one Florida court of appeals, the court had the occasion to describe when it is proper to dismiss a case based on fraud or misconduct. The bar may be higher than previously thought.

motorcicles-791105-mCasteel v. Maddalena: The Facts

In the recent case, Casteel v. Maddalena, the parties were disputing fault in a serious Florida accident involving a car and a motorcycle. Casteel, the motorcyclist, was hit by Maddalena as he was making a left turn across two lanes of traffic. The main issue in the case was where Casteel was in the intersection when he was struck by Maddalena’s vehicle. If he was clear of the intersection, it would indicate that Maddalena was at fault. However, if he was still in the intersection at the time of the collision, it would mean that he failed to yield the right of way to Maddalena, who was traveling straight ahead at the time of the accident.

To prove his case, Casteel called witnesses who testified that there were skid marks on the road where the collision occurred and that these skid marks must have been caused by Maddalena’s vehicle because the road was just re-paved the day before. The jury eventually came back with a verdict that found Maddalena in part responsible.

New Trial Sought for Newly Discovered Evidence

Maddalena sought a new trial once she found out that the road had actually been paved ten days to several weeks before the accident. Maddalena asked the court to reconsider the jury’s determination, however, instead, the court reversed the jury’s decision and ordered a new trial based on the “fraud or misconduct” of Casteel in submitting the false testimony.

The Bar for Fraud or Misconduct is Higher Than the Trial Court Held

The court of appeals reversed the trial judge’s decision, holding that in order to find “fraud or misconduct” the party accused of the misdeed must have knowledge that what they are submitting to the court is not true. Here, because there was no indication that Casteel intentionally submitted false information to mislead the court, there was no fraud.

Are You Considering Bringing a Florida Personal Injury Suit?

If you are considering bringing a Florida personal injury case against someone who caused your injury, you should speak to an experienced Florida accident attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you speak to an attorney, the more time he or she will have to prepare a strong case, ultimately increasing the chance of a favorable result for you. Click here, or call 352-387-8700 to schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced attorney at the Dean Law Firm.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Plaintiff Almost Loses Opportunity to Recover Based on Sloppy Filings, Ocala Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 31, 2014.

Florida Court Corrects Arbitrator’s Error of Law in Recent Court of Appeals Case, Ocala Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 31, 2014.