Tate v. Safeco Insurance Co. of Illinois
A judge who presides over a mistrial can preside over the subsequent re-trial and is not required to obtain another waiver of a potential conflict of interest that the parties previously waived. Allegedly, the plaintiff, Lorene Tate, was injured in a motor-vehicle accident. In October 2012, a court granted a mistrial, after one of the witnesses admitted on the stand that she was the driver, whose identity previously had been unknown. After a retrial, a jury awarded the plaintiff damages in the amount of $15,215. The plaintiff moved to set aside the verdict and objected that she was not permitted to read medical reports into the court record. The court admitted the plaintiff's medical reports of doctors who were expected to testify into the record and did not permit the plaintiff to read them to the jury. The court complied with Rule 4.3 of the Connecticut Code of Evidence, which provides, "Relevant evidence may be excluded if [its] probative value is outweighed [by] the danger of unfair prejudice or surprise, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time or needless presentation of cumulative evidence." The court did not prevent the plaintiff from referring to or using the medical reports. The court's ruling avoided confusion, redundancy and the presentation of cumulative evidence. It also was not wrong for the judge that presided over the mistrial to preside over the subsequent trial. Connecticut General Statutes §51-183c provides, "No judge of any court who presided over any jury trial, either in a civil or criminal case, in which a new trial is granted, may again preside at the trial of the case." C.G.S. §51-183 did not apply, because none of the judge's rulings were found incorrect. A new trial that follows a remand differs from a retrial that follows a mistrial. Also, the parties' waiver of a potential conflict of interest, because the judge represented the defendant 35 years earlier, continued in effect after the mistrial, unless one of the parties withdrew the waiver. The court denied the plaintiff's motion to set aside the verdict.