Getting Recalls Into Evidence

One of the aggravating parts of handling a product defect case is when the government recalls
the very product in your case and the defendant argues that you shouldn't be able to use the recall in evidence to persuade the jury that the product is defective. Aggravating indeed.

Seems like there's lots of recalls on the news nowadays and the mere existence on the news can help people understand both the reality and the prevalence of defective products in our society. But how can you actually get the recall into evidence so the jury in your case can hear about it?

Well, the first rule is to remember that if the recall indicates that a defect was present when the product left the manufacturer then it is relevant in your case. Relevant evidence is just something that makes it more likely, or less likely, that a disputed fact is true. So, does it?

Some judges will want the defect in your case to be the same as the defect in the recall. Others are more liberal about it. Just remember, your argument should focus on the fact that the recall makes it possible that a defect existed in an entire group of products and your case involves one of those products. Take a look at Bailey v Monaco Coach (ND Ga 2004), 350 F.Supp.2d 1036.

And when the defendant argues that the recall is hearsay, don't forget that you can argue that it is actually admissible as an admission by the defendant so it isn't really hearsay at all. Still, you have to know your evidence rules and be ready to quickly cite the rule numbers that apply.

Keep in mind that if a defendant claims its product is safe or the best or carefully designed, etc, you may be able to use the recall as evidence that can impeach the defendant's claim.

Impeachment, direct, rebuttal, hearsay --- whatever. The bottom line is that you need to carefully plot out how you can use recall evidence in your case and be prepared for a tough fight from the defendant. Recall evidence can be crucial to prove the truth of a product's defective nature or history, so don't give up easy.

Ronald L. Burdge
www. The Law Coach .com
Helping Consumer Law Attorneys Win Cases Since 1978