Attorney May Cross Examine Chiropractor on His School Suspension 30 Years Ago
On Tuesday an Appellate Court agreed with Supreme Court, Bronx County Judge Howard Sherman that it was fair game for a defense attorney to challenge a plaintiff's chiropractor expert on his honesty. The chiropractor had been suspended from chiropractor school 30 years ago for "for falsely reporting that he had seen patients." In any battle of the experts, past conduct demonstrating dishonesty is highly relevant for the jury to consider in deciding which expert is more honest and competent. In this case the sole issue before the jury was whether the plaintiff suffered a serious and permanent injury to his shoulder and knee caused by a car accident. Plaintiff's chiropractor took the stand as a rebuttal witness, was soundly impeached and the case was lost.
The Appellate Court ruled that defense counsel properly attacked the chiropractor about his suspension from chiropractor school even though it occurred 30 years ago. Opposition to this type of attack usually relies on an argument that misconduct more than 10 - 15 years ago is not a fair reflection on the witnesses present character. In a case I tried before the (same) Judge Sherman last month, I was allowed to cross examine a witness (who testified that the plaintiff fraudulently fabricated his alleged accident) with a criminal conviction for impersonating a police officer that occurred 14 years ago. Defense counsel unsuccessfully argued that the remoteness of the crime precluded its admissibility. Not so. Prior misconduct involving acts of dishonesty are timeless and jurors should be allowed to decide for themselves whether it is a fair reflection on the witnesses present character. Montas v Abouel-Ela, 2017 WL 4781382
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