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Criminal Law


A Criminal Conviction Does Not End the Liability Issue in a Subsequent Civil Case...


Maybe David Felsen C


lient: “I heard that you are a great personal injury attorney. I have an easy case, can you help me.” Attorney: “Yes, that is true. I am one of the best,


if not the best, personal injury attorneys in the state. Tell me a little about your case.” Client; “Well, I got beat up by this really rich guy who has


lots of insurance that would cover this type of intentional act. I have some significant injuries. Best of all, he just plead guilty to the single count of assault in the District Court of Maryland. Te fact that he plead guilty ends the case right? How rich am I going to be and when can I get my check?” Tough the


case certainly looks like a worthwhile


endeavor from the practitioner’s point of view, under current Maryland law, the issue of liability is not necessarily concluded. A careful practitioner should be wary. A criminal conviction, in and of itself, is inadmissible to establish the truth of the facts upon which it is rendered in a civil action for damages arising from the offense for which the person is convicted.”State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., v. Carter, 840 A.2d 161, 154 Md.App. 400 (2003); Aetna Casualty & Surety Co. v. Kuhl, 296 Md. 446, 450, 463 A.2d 822 (1983).


Development of the Rule Te general rule that a conviction is not competent


evidence, in a case in chief, to prove the facts of the events that led to a conviction in a subsequent proceeding is well founded in common law and in other jurisdictions. California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia have all adopted the same rule, either by case law or statute. In several Maryland cases at the beginning of the


twentieth century, the rule was well recognized, but often discussed relative to the impeachment of witnesses on the issue of credibility. In Baltimore & O.R. Co. V. Strube, 111 Md. 119, 73 A. 697 (1909), the Court of Appeals evaluated the cross examination of a civil defendant on an assault conviction related to the underlying civil action. Te Court stated, “Such evidence would not be admissible in chief for the purpose of proving the fact of the assault, but the questions are proper upon cross-examination of the person charged with committing the assault.” Id. at 699. Until 1927 the credibility of a witness could be impeached by evidence of a prior conviction of any crime, regardless of it nature, as long as it was not deemed too remote. See Bonaparte v. Tayer, 95 Md. 548, 52 A. 496 (1902)(concerning necessity of conviction); Simond v. State, 127 Md. 29, 95 A. 1073 (1915)


Legal Nurse Resource Team


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Valerie Strockbine RN Certified Legal Nurse Consultant


vstrockbine@gmail.com 443-864-8089


Trial Reporter / Summer 2011 43


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