SW Legal studies in Business

Court Will Not Allow Video That Claims To Recreate Automobile Accident
Description Trial court held that a video prepared by a vehicle manufacturer in a case against the company for fatal injury caused by an exploding gas tank could not be shown as a demonstration video to the jury because it did not accurately recreate all conditions of the accident. Consequently, it could mislead the jury.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Evidence; Video; Reconstruction; Jury Prejudice
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Green sued Ford Motor on behalf of the estate of a person killed in an accident in which the fuel tank exploded. Ford prepared a demonstration video that showed a similar pickup on fire to show that the fire is concentrated toward the back rather than the front of the vehicle. Eyewitnesses testified that the vehicle was on fire in the front. The purpose of the Ford video was to show that the fire must not have originated in the fuel tank that was in the rear. The plaintiff moved to exclude the evidence.
Decision

The evidence will not be allowed. "The defendant's video more closely resembles a recreation than it does a demonstration of abstract principles. ... the test is sufficiently close in appearance to the actual event that there exists a substantial risk of misinterpretation by the jury." The test in the video is not substantially similar to the accident because it fails to take into account the surface of the road on which the accident occurred, the fact that the engine had been in operation, and therefore hot, before the accident. These factors have been shown to be significant factors in vehicle fires, so the "burn test" offered in the Ford video that is supposed to replicate the accident does not do so and thereby creates a risk of jury prejudice.

Citation Green v. Ford Motor Co., 2001 WL 1593232 (W.D., Va., 2001)

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