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A PLAINTIFF’S IMMIGRATION STATUS IS NOT ADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE IN A CIVIL TRIAL

  • In Uncategorized
  • 15 July 2015
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A person’s immigration or residency status does not affect that individual’s right to file a civil lawsuit in California for personal injuries. However, it is not unusual in some cases for a defendant’s attorney to desire to make reference to a jury that a plaintiff is a recent immigrant to the United States or holds a certain residency status (temporary or permanent) in an effort to create antipathy toward the plaintiff. Although one would hope that such an effort would backfire, the issue of immigration may be such a hot-button issue for many Americans that it is important for the lawyer representing an immigrant plaintiff to take precautions prior to trial to keep that information out.

The Evidence Code of California contains many provisions, including general ones, that state that only information relevant to the specific issues in a lawsuit is admissible at trial. California Civil Code section 3339 provides that all rights and protections available under state law are available to all individuals regardless of immigration status. Prior to trial, the plaintiff’s lawyer should file a motion in limine with the court so that the trial judge can issue a pretrial order prohibiting defendants and their attorneys from making any reference to the plaintiff’s immigration or residency status.

Bailey & Partners recently participated in a trial on behalf of a plaintiff who sustained injuries and financial losses stemming from defendant’s negligent conduct. During pretrial discovery, defense counsel learned that the plaintiff was an English-speaking immigrant from Asia who had obtained permanent residency status in the U. S. (a green card) and spent significant periods of time outside the country. It appeared that defense counsel was prepared to pursue a line of questioning of the plaintiff at trial to reveal this information to the jury, so as to underscore the fact that a non-U. S. citizen was seeking compensation for injuries from a defendant who was a citizen of the United States. That might appeal to some hidden biases of some members of the jury. Bailey & Partners, prior to trial, filed a motion to preclude this line of questioning. The trial judge agreed and that line of questioning never occurred. Motions in limine are powerful tools that plaintiff attorneys with foresight should use to make sure that potentially irrelevant information designed to prejudicially interfere with a trial is precluded.