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Are government accident reports admissible in product liability cases? P.2

In recent posts, we’ve been discussing the potential usefulness and admissibility of government accident reports in product liability litigation. As we’ve mentioned, the factuality of reported findings is a critical issue, since lack of factuality can prevent reported findings from being admitted at trial. Findings which lack finality, are largely based on third-party materials or investigations, or which are closer to legal conclusions are not likely to be admissible.

Another important issue is the trustworthiness of reported findings. Even if findings are determined to be factual, there are certain factors which can suggest lack of credibility. One such issue is the timeliness with which the government agency conducted the investigation. If the investigation was conducted while the evidence was still fresh, with minimal potential for alteration or changes, this is not as likely to be an issue. 

Another factor that could compromise the trustworthiness of reported findings is the experience and skill level of the agency or officials performing the investigation. If the investigators lack special skills needed to make an accurate determination on certain technical matters about a case, their factual findings could be determined to lack sufficient trustworthiness. Still another potential issue impacting trustworthiness is agency or investigator bias or improper motivation in conducting the investigation.

In product liability litigation, a defendant can find himself or herself on either side of the issue of admissibility. In some cases, the findings of a report will be favorable to the defendant, and the defendant will be in the position of seeking to have those findings admitted into evidence. In other cases, the report will be unfavorable and the defendant will have to show why the report should not be admitted into evidence.

Regardless of the nature of the findings of the report and the circumstances of the case, building a strong product liability defense requires sound legal counsel and advocacy to ensure a defendant builds the best possible case. 

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