Video Simulation Not Allowed in Recent Florida Auto Accident Trial

In the recent case of Coddington v. Nunez, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D1888 (2013), a video simulation of a car accident was disallowed by the trial court because the judge determined that it was prejudicial and “could very well lead the jury to defer to the opinion of the expert.” The trial judge also disallowed the expert from testifying what his opinion was based on computer calculations regarding the speeds of the vehicle and whether the plaintiff was wearing his seatbelt based solely on the results of the simulations. The trial court’s decision on not allowing the video and limiting the testimony of the expert witness was appealed and the appellate court determined that the trial court judge was within his discretion to disallow the video from being shown in court, but was incorrect in not allowing the expert to testify regarding his opinions based on the computer calculations and video simulation.

Under Florida law, relevant evidence is inadmissible if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of issues, misleading the jury, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence. So even though the video simulation may have been legally admissible to begin with, the appellate court decided that the trial court did not take an unreasonable position in disallowing the video based on its prejudicial effect. While the appellate court found that the video simulation itself was inadmissible, they also said the trial court got it wrong in excluding the expert’s opinion regarding the results of video simulation. In support of its ruling, the appellate court stated that the testimony of the expert should be allowed because, “all of the opinions excluded by the trial court were formed using scientifically accepted calculations involving the weight of the vehicles and the distance they traveled under the particular facts of this accident. The calculations were based on the input of weights and measurements of the actual cars involved in the accident.” A new trial will have to be conducted in compliance with the appellate court’s decisions. The Coddington case does not mean that every video simulation is inadmissible at a trial. It is ultimately up to the trial judge in each case to decide to admit computer or video simulations based on arguments from the attorneys and the facts and circumstances the particular case.