Attorney Fails to Make Timely Objection, so Judgment in Product Liability Case Must Stand

Even when individuals have a valid claim, a lawyer’s missteps can have serious consequences for their clients. In a recent case, a judgment in favor of the defendant could not be revisited because the issue raised on appeal was not raised by the plaintiffs’ lawyer during the trial.

popcorn-1582259The Facts of the Case

A husband and wife filed a lawsuit against makers and distributors of microwave popcorn and butter flavoring. The husband ate microwave popcorn every day for 20 years. They alleged that the products caused him to develop the lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans.

At trial, the experts disagreed about what caused the husband’s sickness. Both the plaintiffs and the defendants had a number of expert witnesses who testified about his sickness and its likely cause. One of the defendant’s experts was a doctor who testified about articles that were not provided to the plaintiffs for review. The plaintiff’s lawyer objected, arguing that the witness could not testify about facts about which the plaintiffs did not have information. He argued that the plaintiffs could not adequately prepare for such testimony, and the testimony was unfair. The judge agreed, and the expert’s testimony was stricken. Accordingly, the judge instructed the jury to ignore the testimony they had heard from the expert. The trial continued, and the jury found in favor of the defendant.

The plaintiffs appealed the decision. They argued that they were entitled to a new trial because, while the expert’s testimony was stricken, it was prejudicial because the jury had already heard it. However, the court affirmed the trial court’s decision because the plaintiff failed to object to the judge’s instruction at trial for the jury to disregard the testimony, and the jury is presumed to have followed the instruction. Since the plaintiff’s lawyer failed to object to the instruction at the time that the judge gave it, the plaintiffs forfeited the error. The error could only be raised if it was so egregious that the appellate court found it warranted a complete reversal due to a “miscarriage of justice,” which it did not find here.

The Importance of Making Timely Objections in Court

When attorneys fail to make objections, usually the issue will be considered waived. That means that if the case is appealed, it is often difficult for a party to have the judge’s decision overturned. For that reason, it is important that a lawyer make a contemporaneous objection—at the time the evidence is introduced. Even if an objection has been raised in the past on an issue, a lawyer generally needs to renew the objection so that the issue is “preserved” for appeal. The case above demonstrates the importance of having an experienced attorney representing you in court. The lawyer in that case failed to make a timely objection, causing the plaintiff to forfeit that issue on appeal.

Do You Need an Experienced Lawyer?

If you or a loved one has been injured, you should speak to an Illinois product liability attorney as soon as possible. Since lawyers can make mistakes, for example by failing to make a timely objection, an experienced and dedicated lawyer is essential. Missteps can be devastating, and you need an experienced attorney in your corner. The lawyers at Moll Law Group have experience in personal injury claims, and we know the importance of preserving issues for appeal even if the trial judge does not see them your way. To speak with a dedicated personal injury attorney, fill out our consultation form to arrange a free initial consultation or call us at 312-462-1700.

See More Posts:

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Recent Case Discusses How Settlement Terms Can Bar All Future Claims, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, March 1, 2016.

Court Considers Causation Issues in Defective Gun Case, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, March 8, 2016.