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Shockley v. Lewis

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

March 10, 2015

JEFFREY SHOCKLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
FRENA LEWIS, Defendant.

Submitted: March 8, 2015

Upon Defendant's Motion for Reargument on Photograph Admissibility.

Benjamin A. Schwartz, Esquire of Schwartz & Schwartz, Dover, Delaware; attorney for Plaintiff.

Jeffrey A. Young, Esquire of Young & McNelis, Dover, Delaware; attorney for Defendant.

ORDER

WITHAM, R.J.

This Motion for Reargument was filed after the Trial Calendar Conference and Motion in Limine hearing for the parties in anticipation of trial. This motion was made solely to argue the admissibility of photograph(s) of Frena Lewis's (hereinafter "Defendant") vehicle after an auto collision with Jeffrey Shockley (hereinafter "Plaintiff"). Personal damages and liability are contested in this case.

FACTS AND PROCEDURE

The Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant was negligent and negligent per se based on: following too closely (21 Del. C. § 4123), careless driving (21 Del. C. § 4176(a)), inattentive driving (21 Del. C. § 4176(b)), and using an electronic communication device (21 Del. C. § 4176C).

On February 17, 2015, the Plaintiff filed his motion in limine to exclude photograph(s) of the Defendant's vehicle after the motor vehicle accident. The Court ruled that the photograph(s) were inadmissible pursuant to Davis v. Maute.[1] Before delving deeper into the decision of the Court, a correction must be made. During the Trial Calendar Conference and Motion in Limine hearing conducted in Chambers, the Court stated the following:

"Davis holds that 'photographs of the vehicles involved in an accident may never be admitted without expert testimony about the significance of the damage to the vehicles shown in the accident and how that damage may relate to an issue in the case.'"

The correction to this is that the Supreme Court of Delaware held in Eskin that:

"Davis does not hold that photographs of the vehicles involved in an accident may never be admitted without expert testimony about the significance of the damages to the vehicles shown in the accident and how that damage may relate to an issue in the case."[2]

This correction does not change what the Court's intention was at the time of meeting. The Court intended to exclude any photograph(s) of the Defendant's vehicle because it felt that the jury would infer from the photograph(s) that Plaintiff's injuries correlate to the damage to the vehicle, which is explicitly prohibited by Davis.

The Defendant filed its motion for reargument on March 8, 2015, two days before trial, arguing that this Court misinterpreted Davis because it held that photograph(s) that demonstrate the extent of damages to vehicles in an accident are inadmissible in the absence of an expert. The Defense also argues that no precedent exists in Delaware case law that excludes the introduction of photographs of a vehicle as evidence to show damages. This is incorrect. The Delaware Superior Court has previously ruled that photographs of a vehicle after an auto accident are inadmissible due to their prejudicial value, in keeping with Davis. In Drejka, the Plaintiff wanted to show photographs of the vehicle in order to show "how the accident occurred, to identify the points of impact, and to explain the movement of her body inside the car during the accident."[3] However, as in the present case, the parties were not contesting that an accident actually occurred; instead, the party's negligence and injuries were at issue. The Court ruled that admission ...


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