Character Evidence

Atlanta Injury Lawyer Robert J. Fleming offers notes on common evidentiary issues that arise in Georgia trials such as car accidents, medical malpractice, dental malpractice, unsafe conditions and other types of negligence. Character Evidence, Evidence of Routine Habits, Similar Acts and Evidence that is not related to the actual negligent act complained of are covered.

  • The general character of the parties and especially their conduct in other transactions are irrelevant matter, unless the nature of he action involves such character and renders necessary the investigation of such conduct. O.C.G.A. 24-2-2.
  • The general prohibition of O.C.G.A. 24-2-2 is against using evidence of a person's character as circumstantial evidence that the party acted in conformity with his character at the time in question. Williams v. State, 312 S.E. 2d 40, 90 (Ga. 1983) (Smith, J., dissenting).
  • Any facts about a party that are unrelated to the case on trial, which suggest the party is more likely than the average person to do a specific act are prohibited by O.C.G.A. 24-2-2. Barrett v. State, 436 S.E. 2d 480 (Ga. 1993).

Evidence of Habit or Routine Practice

The routine practice or standard operating procedure of a business or other organization is admissible as circumstantial evidence the business or organization followed the routine practice at the time in question. O.C.G.A. 24-9-20(b). The routine is proved by the testimony of a witness who has personal knowledge of the routine and can testify that it probably was followed in the instant case.

Similar Acts or Conditions

  • Where evidence of a prior act tends to show a certain condition and knowledge of that condition, the evidence is admissible. McCoy v. Gay, 165 Ga.App. 590, 302 S.E.2d 130 (1983).
  • Evidence of other transactions or occurrences is admissible if it is relevant to the particular instance and does not place too great a danger of undue consumption of time, confusion of issues, undue prejudice or unfair surprise. Charles Parrott & Assoc. v. Hunt, 167 Ga. App. 106, 305 S.E.2d 879 (1983).

For Punitive Damages

  • Character of the defendant and her attitude and propensity toward certain conduct may be evidence of the defendant's callous indifference.

Evidence of Other Unrelated Accidents

  • Evidence of other unrelated incidents that may account for the present case is admissible only if the defendant is basing its theory of causation on something more than speculation and this must be supported by specific evidence linking the injuries from the unrelated accident to the claimed injury in the case. Meacham v. Barber, 359 S.E. 2d 424 (Ga. App. 1987).
  • Evidence of prior similar conduct also may be admissible to prove a party's course of conduct and state of mind in order to show bad faith, in connection with claims for attorneys' fees. Pope v. Witter, 421 S.E. 2d 725 (Ga. App. 1996)
  • A party may open the door to otherwise inadmissible evidence of prior incidents by offering testimony that can be refuted by such prior incidents. Gunthorpe v. Daniels, 257 S.E. 2d 199 (Ga. App. 1979).
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