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January 12, 2016 |


Recent developments in a 2015 personal injury case filed after a man was hurt by an automatic door that malfunctioned aboard a cruise ship demonstrate the importance of attorneys and their clients being honest with each other and the courts throughout the pendency of a personal injury or wrongful death case. Dishonest actions concerning even a seemingly peripheral aspect of a lawsuit can result in an entire jury verdict being set aside, even after the judgment has been finalized and the plaintiff has started to act as if the award was theirs to spend.

The Importance of Document Preservation and Compliance with Discovery Obligations

As soon as an Illinois personal injury case becomes reasonably foreseeable, plaintiffs and their attorneys fall under an obligation to preserve documents that are relevant to the case. This obligation concerns favorable, apparently neutral, and potentially unfavorable documents to the plaintiff’s case, and it can be in effect even before a case is filed. Once a case is filed and the process known as discovery begins, the obligation becomes even broader, and compliance can be extremely important. Discovery is the pretrial procedure by which the parties to a lawsuit obtain information and evidence from the other parties involved, and it often involves the plaintiff and defendant in a lawsuit being required to turn over information to the other side that could possibly hurt their case.

The Illinois Rules of Civil Procedure mandate the process by which discovery in an Illinois personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit is performed, and these laws include punishments, or sanctions, for a party who misleads the other party or the court as to the discovery requests that are submitted. These sanctions may include the suppression of favorable evidence, a witness being disqualified from giving their testimony, or even the retroactive modification of a verdict that has already been handed down, possibly eliminating a plaintiff’s award.

$21.5 Million Verdict in Cruise Ship Case Set Aside for Discovery Violations

A judge recently handed down a severe discovery sanction to a plaintiff who believed he had been awarded $21.5 million after he was injured on a cruise ship after it was found that he intentionally destroyed several emails that were harmful to his case instead of handing them over to the other party during the discovery process. According to a local news report, although the emails did not concern the defendant’s negligence or the fact that the man was injured, a federal judge ordered that a new trial must be held on the claim, which could result in a smaller award for the plaintiff or even a complete lack of recovery. These recent developments demonstrate the seriousness of compliance with discovery obligations.

Evidence Turned Over in Discovery is Not Automatically Admissible at Trial

Personal injury plaintiffs must be honest with their lawyer when compiling information during discovery, especially information or evidence that could hurt their case. It may be possible for a skilled Illinois accident attorney to keep out evidence from consideration by the judge or jury, even after it has been turned over to the other side, so plaintiffs should not hide anything from their attorneys regarding their case. Even in situations in which unfavorable evidence is admitted, the sanctions for a violation are often worse than the result of the evidence being disclosed, so it is best to comply honestly with discovery obligations.

Should You Contact an Attorney?

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed because of somebody else”s negligence, the Illinois personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at the Cavanagh Sorich Law Group can help you pursue the relief you deserve. We understand the complexities of Illinois and federal laws, and we can help you assert your rights even if you”re not sure if all of the evidence is in your favor. Our attorneys know how to use the law to help our clients seek compensation, and we don”t sacrifice your integrity, and possibly your verdict, in the process. Our Chicago accident lawyers represent victims in most personal injury and wrongful death cases, including cruise ship accidents.

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