SW Legal studies in Business

Fraud on the Court Overturns Trial Verdict
Description Appeals court held that a challenge to a trial result, five years after the trial, could be heard because it involved a claim of fraud on the court that involved attorneys for the defendant who paid an expert witness to give perjured testimony and hid relevant documents. Such fraud does not face a time limit to challenges after the trial.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Fraud on the Court; Perjury
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Chewning was injured in a rollover crash of a Ford Bronco in 1990. His 1993 trial against Ford resulted in a jury verdict for Ford. In 1998, Chewning sued again, contending that there was fraud on the court at the 1990 trial. Bickerstaff, a Ford engineer, testified as an expert as to the safety of the Bronco. Chewning uncovered documents that showed that Bickerstaff had previously criticized the Bronco and recommended corrective measures. He was paid significant sums of money by Ford's lawyers to testify for Ford as to the safety of the Bronco. Ford's lawyers did not produce documents requested by Chewning that have now been uncovered and shown to exist. The trial court rejected Chewning's new case because fraud at trial must be shown within one year of the trial. Chewning appealed.
Decision Reversed. "South Carolina law maintains a distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic fraud." Intrinsic fraud concerns fraud presented and considered in the judgment that is being questioned that goes to the merits of the case. There is a one-year time limit on such issues to be raised after the trial. Extrinsic fraud "refers to frauds ... such as bribery or other misleading acts which prevent the movant from presenting all of his case...." Since Ford's attorneys, who are officers of the court, are claimed to have participated in the fraud at trial, it is extrinsic fraud not subject to the one-year time limit for challenge. If Chewning can prove the scheme of perjury and failure of the attorneys to produce relevant documents, the judgment will be set aside and a new trial held.
Citation Chewning v. Ford Motor Company, - S.E.2d - (2001 WL 589969, Ct. App., S.C., 2001)

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