California Court Discusses Potentially Conflicting Witness Testimony

Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a California personal injury case discussing how trial courts should treat potentially conflicting testimony from a witness. The case arose in the context of allegations made by the plaintiff that the defendant manufacturer caused his asbestos-related illnesses while he was employed for a public utility. The main issue in the appeal was whether the lower court was proper in disregarding the plaintiff’s witness testimony based on the fact that it could be interpreted as being self-contradictory.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff worked for PG&E in the 1980s, and as a part of his employment, he was responsible for replacing gaskets. The defendant manufactured gaskets that, at that time, were sold to PG&E and contained asbestos. The plaintiff’s lawsuit named approximately 50 defendants, but this appeal focused only on one.

In support of his claim, the plaintiff presented a witness who worked for PG&E at the same time as the plaintiff. The witness first testified through a deposition that was held well in advance of trial. During the deposition, the witness explained that he was responsible for ordering the gaskets for PG&E during the time when the plaintiff was employed there, that he ordered gaskets from the defendant, that some of those gaskets were later discovered to contain asbestos, and that he personally saw the plaintiff working with the gaskets.

The court later held a hearing, where subsequent testimony from the witness was taken. In that testimony, the witness admitted that the defendant was not the only manufacturer of asbestos-containing gaskets and that he couldn’t say for sure that the defendant handled gaskets made by the defendant. On the defendant’s motion, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case after disregarding the witness’ testimony because it was conflicting and did not establish unequivocally that the plaintiff was exposed to the defendant’s gaskets.

The Appeal

The plaintiff appealed the lower court’s ruling and was successful in getting the ruling reversed. The appellate court noted that, under prevailing case law, the witness’ testimony should not be disregarded unless there is a clear and unambiguous contradiction, or the testimony is mutually exclusive. Here, the court determined that not to be the case. The court explained that the witness’ testimony did not necessarily contradict insofar as the witness testified that the defendant’s gaskets were used at the facility where the plaintiff worked, that the plaintiff worked with the gaskets, and that the gaskets with which the plaintiff worked later turned out to contain asbestos. This, the court held, was sufficient to give rise to a material fact requiring the case to be submitted to a jury for resolution.

Have You Been a Victim of a California Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of a California workplace accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The discussion above illustrates how contentious California personal injury cases can be, especially those involving expert or eyewitness testimony. At Sharifi Firm, we handle all types of California personal injury cases, including those stemming from accidents occurring at the workplace. To learn more, and to speak with a dedicated California personal injury attorney about your case, call 866-422-7222 today to schedule your free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Charter Bus Full of Employees Crashes on the Way to Holiday Party, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, December 12, 2017

Third-Party Workers’ Compensation Claims in California, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, December 26, 2017

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