Georgia Appeals Court: Police Report Admissible, MARTA Accident Case Should Go to Trial
The family of a woman injured in a vehicle accident involving a Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) van should get to have the case heard by a trial court, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled recently.
The accident involved a van owned by the MARTA that collided with another vehicle. A wheelchair-bound passenger in the van slid out of the securely fastened wheelchair and fractured her leg as a result of the accident. She remained immobile for several months before passing away.
The woman’s family filed a lawsuit. A key point of contention in the case is whether the van driver failed to stay in his lane of travel when making a right turn. The woman’s family alleges that he turned too wide and collided with a passing vehicle in the adjacent left lane.
The Court of Appeals decision focused on the hearsay rule. You may have heard of the hearsay rule. It bars certain out-of-court statements from evidence. It’s a tricky rule with many exceptions.
One of the exceptions involves statements in police reports. The court ruled that a car accident personal injury case involving a MARTA van should proceed to trial based on statements by a police officer in his report of the accident.
A trial court judge in the case had excluded the police report because the statements were unsworn to by the police officer.
However, the Appeals Court said the trial judge made an error of law. Statements by a police officer in a vehicle accident report do not need to be sworn to as a condition of admissibility into evidence, the Appeals Court ruled.
Georgia law allows into evidence statements in a police report based on personal observations of a police officer. This is known as the “public records” exception to the hearsay rule, which allows into evidence, statements made by government officials in public records related to their public duties.
The Appeals Court said the case should proceed to trial since the police officer’s depiction of the accident differed from the vehicle driver’s version, creating a dispute over how the accident occurred.
The case is Maloof v. Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (Case No. A14A2233).
If you have been injured in a car accident caused by another driver in Atlanta, contact us for a free consultation with a knowledgeable car accident lawyer about your legal options.