December 30, 2013

Immigration Status in Personal Injury Cases: Ayala v. Lee

Should evidence concerning a plaintiff's immigration status be admissible in a personal injury trial? Maryland's Court of Special Appeals says yes -- if the evidence is relevant and not prejudicial with respect to damages. Yesterday The Daily Record published a helpful story dissecting the Court's decision in Rigoberto E. Domingos Ayala, et al, v. Robert Frederick Lee, a case resulting from an automobile accident in which two undocumented workers were severely injured.

The decision, written by Judge Robert A. Zarnoch, overturns a jury verdict for the defense and states that the plaintiffs are entitled to a new trial on the question of damages. According to the unanimous three-judge panel, the evidence shows that the trial court should have granted the plaintiffs' motion for judgment as to liability.

"Reviewing cases from around the country," The Daily Record reports, "the Court of Special Appeals said neither federal law nor a Supreme Court case from 2002 precludes an award of lost wages and damages to undocumented immigrants."

But immigration status may factor into how damages are calculated, according to the Court, and the decision offers guidelines as to what evidence the jury could consider.