Absence of Prior Accidents Evidence – Recent Trends in Admissibility
I. Overview and Importance
Admission of a product's safety history evidence is one of the "most effective defenses in products liability cases." Just as plaintiffs often introduce evidence of prior accidents in products liability cases, defendants may offer proof of the absence of prior accidents. Defendant manufacturers can utilize this proof to show that a product is not dangerous or defective, that the product did not cause the plaintiff's injury, or that the defendant lacked notice of a defect. Also known as "safety history" evidence, proof of the absence of prior accidents involving the product at issue is "powerful evidence for the defense," and can be "incredibly persuasive to the jury."
II. Common Issues
Most courts today hold that evidence of the absence of prior accidents is relevant and may be admitted when appropriate. Even courts claiming to exclude such evidence as a "general rule" usually allow its admission "when it is relevant and has sufficient probative value." Although "very few courts appear to follow a categorical rule of exclusion," admissibility of evidence of the absence of prior accidents varies according to jurisdiction and the unique facts of each case.
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