How an Injured New York Construction Worker Used the Hearsay Rule to Keep His Foreman’s Testimony out of His Case

When you are injured at your construction job and need to file a lawsuit in order to obtain the compensation that the law allows you to receive, it helps to accumulate as many pieces of evidence as possible that back up your own assertions about what happened before and during your accident. Another important litigation tactic you may need to use to give yourself a stronger case is keeping out harmful evidence that the law says is not allowed to be admitted as part of your case. For advocacy in these evidentiary battles within your case, you should make sure you have a knowledgeable New York construction accident attorney representing you.

One recent construction injury case involved Atley, a construction worker who was working on Christmas Eve in 2012 when he suffered a serious accident. The worker was wearing a safety harness when he had his accident, but his harness was not tied off to anything. According to Atley, his accident took place because, while he was working on a scaffold, he tripped on a block and fell backward, tumbling off the scaffold and landing on the ground.

To back his allegations regarding how the accident happened, Atley had, in addition to his own testimony that he fell off the scaffold because he tripped on a block, his workers’ compensation claim, which stated that he slipped and fell off the scaffold. These pieces of proof, when put together, were enough to demonstrate to the court that Atley had not received the proper safety protections to safeguard him against falling off the scaffold and suffering injuries, which is a violation of New York’s Labor Law.

The worker was also able to keep out certain information that could have damaged his case. Specifically, the entities that Atley sued for his injuries tried to submit to the court proof that Atley had told his foreman shortly after the accident that he fell while climbing the scaffold, rather than while already atop the scaffold. They tried to get this information into the case by having the foreman testify at trial about what Atley said. This is something called, within the law, hearsay. Hearsay is typically not admissible evidence in a case unless that statement falls within one of several specific exceptions created by the law.

For example, if the party who seeks to use the statement as evidence can prove that the original speaker made the comment while in an emotionally excited state, that information may be admissible under a legal exception called an “excited utterance.” To do this, though, there must be proof given to the judge that shows what the original speaker’s mental state was when he made the “utterance.” Without that information, there is not enough proof to show that the speaker was sufficiently excited. The defense in Atley’s case had no proof of Atley’s mental state at the time that he allegedly made the comment to the foreman, so the statement could not be admitted against Atley in his case.

All of this meant that Atley was entitled to summary judgment holding the companies he sued liable for the harm he suffered in the fall. If you have been hurt while working at your construction job, reach out to the skilled New York City construction accident attorneys at Arcia & Associates. Our team works diligently to provide our injured clients with advice and advocacy upon which they can rely as they navigate the legal process.

Contact us at (718) 651-4363 to find out how we can help you.