Evidence of Immigration Status Inadmissible in California Personal Injury Cases

Never have terms like “illegal alien,” “illegal immigrant,” and “undocumented worker” created more fear and controversy in our nation than now.

The passionate responses inspired by the word “immigration” carry such a substantial danger of interfering with the jury’s duty to conduct a fair deliberation, and so significant is this danger that courts across the nation are increasingly excluding evidence of a party’s immigration status. The basic premise is that no evidence is admissible except relevant evidence, except in the case of immigrationunfair prejudice, confusion, waste of time, or for other reasons. In personal injury cases, a litigant’s immigration status is frequently irrelevant and therefore, inadmissible.

Evidence of Immigration Status Inadmissible

With more and more courts recognizing that introducing evidence regarding a party’s immigrant status is almost always inadmissible, even if it might be relevant to an issue in the case, a per se rule of inadmissibility regarding immigration status was on the horizon. On August 17, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 2159, which effectively blocks a plaintiff’s immigration status as admissible in court during personal injury and wrongful death cases.

The law is based on a California appellate court decision Rodriguez v. Kline, in which an injured plaintiff was seeking compensation including healthcare costs and damages for the loss of future work. The lower court had ruled to use the plaintiff’s immigration status as a key factor in the case, using their “home country” to calculate lost wages and medical care costs rather than their wages and medical costs in the U.S.

The ruling effectively gave them a fraction of the compensation they would have received had they been documented, and potentially discouraged many immigrants from filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit in California, fearing they wouldn’t be fairly compensated and that their immigration status would be on the public record. The Court of Appeals of California reversed the judgment in 1986.

If you have questions about how your personal injury case in North Dakota, contact a personal injury lawyer at O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Foss online, or call 701-235-8000 or 877-235-8002 (toll-free) today.

Photo courtesy of The Blue Diamond Gallery

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