A Party’s Statement Defeats Motorcycle/Truck Injury Case; Jordan v. Binns

The Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago found that an injured motorcyclist’s husband’s statement was an admissible statement for the jury to hear and not barred as hearsay. The man told a state trooper that although his wife was severely injured, she said to him:  “I’m sorry. It’s not the trucker’s fault.It was mine.”

Betty Jordan, the motorcyclist, was severely injured when her motorcycle collided with a semi-trailer truck on an Indianapolis interstate highway. Both of Jordan’s legs were amputated at the knees. The Jordans filed suit against the trucker and his employer for negligence and loss of consortium. 

After a jury verdict for the defendants, the plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals arguing that the district court erred in ruling that the state trooper’s testimony — about what the husband told him — was hearsay under Federal Rule of Evidence (FRE) 801.

Because the statement was an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement, the definition of Federal Rule of Evidence 801(c) would have prevented the statement because it was hearsay. But under Rule 801(d)(2)(A) exception for “an imposing party’s statement” as amended in 2001, the testimony about an out-of-court declaration is not hearsay if “the statement is offered against an opposing party and [it] was made by the party in an individual or representative capacity.”

The Jordans argued that “Ted’s (Betty’s husband) statements are not party admissions under FRE 801(d)(2)(A) because they were not his own statements and that he merely repeated Betty’s statements,” the Seventh Circuit stated.

The court  decided, however, that the statements made by Ted reporting what Betty told him were not barred by the hearsay evidence rules. 

According to the court, the Rule 801(d)(2)(A) provides that a statement is not hearsay if “it is offered against imposing party and . . . was made by the party in an individual or representative capacity.” 

Because trustworthiness is not the touchstone for admissibility of party admissions, they are not subject to the personal-knowledge requirement of FRE 602. The two requirements for admissibility under FRE 801(d)(2)(A) are that the statement was made by a party, and the party was offered against that party. 

In this case, the reported statement was made by a known party, Betty, who is the party plaintiff to this case. Ted, who was not a witness to the accident, reported on what Betty told him and would not be barred by the amended hearsay rule. The court noted that there is not an overwhelming body of case law that supports the defendants’ position.In addition, Ted was a party to the lawsuit, and his alleged statements were offered by defendants in an attempt to defeat the plaintiffs’ case, which succeeded. It was clear that Ted “made” the statements and that the statements were spoken to him by his wife Betty. Ted took the opportunity at trial to deny that he made those statements, which left the issue of his credibility to the jury. 

Jordan v. Binns, No. 11-2134 (April 4, 2013).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling motorcycle accidents, truck injury cases and car accident cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 37 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Rosemont, Bartlett, Kenilworth, Chicago (Mount Greenwood), Chicago (Bridgeport), Chicago (Canaryville), Calumet City, Worth, Blue Island, Grayslake and Round Beach Lake, Ill.

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