“Fraud on Court ” Ruling Against Car Accident Plaintiff Reversed


A car accident victim spotted on surveillance video engaging in physical activity he previously said he could not perform as a result of a crash will be allowed to proceed with his case.

Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals ruled in Guillen v. Vang and Xiong that the video alone was not evidence that the plaintiff had perpetuated fraud on the court. While it could potentially impact a jury’s perception of the victim’s credibility, it was not reason enough to dismiss the case entirely. The appellate court reversed the district court’s earlier summary judgment in the case, and remanded it for further proceedings.

Car accident lawyers in Boca Raton want all potential plaintiffs to know that it is never a good idea to exaggerate the extent of injuries in a claim. As this case shows, defendants may have ample opportunity to call you out on it. Injury cases are more carefully vetted than you might imagine, and even absent surveillance video, there are medical records, witness statements and other pieces of evidence.

If there is a finding that you purposely mislead the court, that could be grounds for a “fraud on the court” finding, which could lead to a dismissal of the case and possibly other sanctions.

That being said, defendants in these cases are going to find whatever grounds they can to weaken your claim, and that often includes attacking your account of the extent of your injuries. In a situation like this, we don’t know whether the injuries noted in the deposition were true at the time of filing, and the victim’s condition had perhaps improved. We don’t know whether the footage is recent, or perhaps was prior to the crash. Does it even truly identify the victim? How clear are the images? Perhaps there was confusion during certain line of questioning in the deposition? Is there another explanation?

This is a perfect example of where it helps to have an injury lawyer with experience.

What the appellate court determined here was that the video wasn’t enough to dismiss the case. It was not enough to prove via a clear and convincing evidence standard that the plaintiff put into motion some unconscionable scheme calculated to interfere with justice (per the standard set in the 1998 decision in Cox v. Burke).

The court indicated that there was a discrepancy between the plaintiff’s earlier testimony and the video surveillance footage. The ruling didn’t describe those discrepancies, but indicated that they were best weighed by a jury.

There are a fair amount of cases wherein plaintiffs may offer inconsistent testimony, and it has nothing to do with fraud. It could be the result of poor recollection. It could be confusion caused by the way the question was asked. However, even in cases where a person may be out-and-out lying, the court has previously held in Perrine v. Henderson that this usually isn’t enough to support dismissal for fraud. Instead, it’s best handled by bringing it to the jury’s attention upon cross-examination, the court noted.

The court further stated that in all but the most extreme cases, we trust juries to make decisions about whether claims are genuine. And in this case, a jury will have the opportunity to do so.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Guillen v. Vang and Xiong May 16, 2014, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal

More Blog Entries:

Florida Slip-and-Fall Lawsuit to Proceed, May 12, 2014, Boca Raton Car Accident Lawyer Blog