Maryland Rule of Evidence 403: A Question of Probative Value Versus Unfair Prejudice

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing an important evidentiary concept that frequently arises in Maryland personal injury cases. The case required the court to determine whether evidence of the plaintiff’s mental health issues and intoxication should be admitted under the rules of evidence.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was killed when she was struck by a truck that was driving at a low speed. The evidence was conflicting, but the ultimate issue in the case was whether the plaintiff walked out in front of the truck and, if so, whether the truck driver waved toward the plaintiff to go ahead of him.

The defense wanted to introduce evidence that the plaintiff suffered from mental health issues and had alcohol and drugs in her system at the time of the accident. The plaintiff objected, arguing that the proposed evidence was far more prejudicial than it was probative, and thus should be excluded.

Maryland Rule of Evidence 403

In order to be admissible, evidence must be relevant. However, even relevant evidence may be excluded under other rules of evidence. For example, Maryland Rule of Evidence 403 precludes the admission of evidence for which the “probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.”

Thus, when facing unfavorable evidence, a party will often attempt to keep that evidence out by claiming that it is more prejudicial than it is probative. When an objection is made under Rule 403 to the admission of evidence, courts engage in a balancing test, weighing probative value versus unfair prejudice. However, all adverse evidence is, by its very nature, prejudicial, so courts are only concerned with prejudice that is unfair. For example, in the case discussed above the plaintiff argued that there was no evidence the woman was intoxicated at the time of the accident and that the jury may attach a negative stigma to her mental health issues. Of course, this type of thought has no legal basis and would constitute unfair prejudice.

Back to the Case

In this case, the court determined that the evidence was more probative than it was prejudicial and held that it was improperly excluded from the trial. The court explained that the ultimate question in the case was why the plaintiff stepped in front of the truck, and both the plaintiff’s mental health issues and her drug use was relevant to that inquiry.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Truck Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any type of Maryland truck accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you have sustained. At the Maryland truck accident law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC we represent injury victims in all types of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. auto accidents. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation based on the injuries you have sustained, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland School Bus and Charter Bus Accidents, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published December 12, 2018.

Using Circumstantial Evidence to Prove a Maryland Truck Accident Claim, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published December 26, 2018.

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