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Florida Second DCA finds reversible error in trial court's exclusion of plaintiff's hearsay admission to paramedic at scene concerning cause of auto accident

On April 7, 2017, in Ring Power Corporation v. Condado-Perez, No. 2D16-353, the Florida Second DCA reversed the final judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and remanded for a new trial because of the trial court’s erroneous exclusion of the plaintiff driver’s admission to a paramedic at the accident scene that he had swerved to avoid a mattress and lost control of his car. The plaintiff driver successfully argued for the exclusion of this statement at trial on the basis that the paramedic’s report was untrustworthy because it erroneously referred to the plaintiff driver as the husband of the co-plaintiff passenger and because he was not a proficient English speaker. The defendant had argued that the statement should be admitted as a spontaneous statement, excited utterance or simply as an admission by a party opponent. The trial court excluded the statement, based on the belief that the EMSA report that contained the statement was inadmissible hearsay. On appeal, the Florida Second DCA noted that the EMS report had been introduced into evidence without objection and concluded that the statement at issue was an admission under 90.803(18)(a), Florida Statutes. Noting that the improper rejection of evidence only constitutes reversible error where it is determined that the error resulted in a “miscarriage of justice” under a harmless error analysis, the Second DCA held that it was the plaintiff’s burden to prove that there was no reasonable possibility that the error contributed to the verdict. Based on the facts presented, the Second DCA concluded that the plaintiff had failed to meet that burden.