Subsequent Remedial Repairs or Modificaitons

When an accident occurs on or with someone else’s property, that person may find themselves the defendant of a lawsuit claiming they are liable. After the accident, the owner may take precautions (subsequent remedial measures) to prevent any future incidents.

Can the act of taking precautions for the future or making subsequent remedial measures be used as evidence of liability in legal proceedings or trial?

If the defendant makes repairs or takes safety precautions after an accident, is that proof that they are liable for the accident or damage?

Indiana Rule of Evidence 407 addresses this issue.

Indiana Rule of Evidence 407. Subsequent Remedial Measures

When after an event, measures are taken which, if taken previously, would have made the event less likely to occur, evidence of the subsequent measures is not admissible to prove negligence or culpable conduct in connection with the event. This rule does not require the exclusion of evidence of subsequent measures when offered for another purpose, such as proving ownership, control, or feasibility of precautionary measures, if controverted, or impeachment.

Rule 407 states that the act of making repairs or taking safety measures cannot be used as evidence of liability in court.

One of the major purposes of Rule 407 is to promote safety by not discouraging repairs and safety measures being taken after an accident occurs. If safety measures or repairs were admissible as evidence of liability, defendants may avoid taking the measures necessary to avoid future accidents or injuries due to the fear that these actions could be used against them as devastating evidence in court.

However, in some jurisdictions evidence of “subsequent remedial repairs” or modifications that a  a defendant has taken is admissible when dealing with strict liability claims.

A strict liability claim does not require a finding of fault or negligence. Strict liability needs to only prove that the defendant was responsible for the damage or injuries.

A good example of strict liability is the owner of a wild animal. No matter how strong the cage or restraints are, if the animal escapes and causes damages or injuries, the owner will be held liable.

Since Rule 407 excludes evidence of “subsequent remedial measures” only when offered to prove “negligence of culpable conduct” some jurisdictions argue that since negligence is not an element of strict liability claims “subsequent remedial measures” are admissible.

At this point, Indiana generally finds that “subsequent remedial measures” are not admissible.

If you are a loved one have been injured due to an accident on or with someone elses property, it is important to contact a personal injury attorney who can explain your legal rights. The Sweeney Law Firm can help explain Indiana’s complex personal injury laws and help determine if you have a case.

The Sweeney Law Firm offers free consultations. You will never pay any attorney fees or case expenses unless we obtain a financial recovery in your legal case.

Note: All of the Indiana Rules of Court - Rules of Evidence can be found at: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/rules/evidence/index.html