COURTROOM RESOURCE GUIDE
DAY-IN-THE-LIFE VIDEO ADMISSIBILITY
ay-in-the-life” videos are typically presented Although the scenes depicted in the video may be
in court to demonstrate to jurors the sever- unpleasant, its prejudicial impact cannot substantially
ity of a plaintiff’s injuries and the impact outweigh the video’s probative value. The plaintiff’s
those injuries have on his or her daily living counsel must show that the daily activities in the video
activities. Footage of these activities—such as rising, were typical for the plaintiff, so that the admission of
eating, bathing, and receiving physical therapy—can the video would not be unduly prejudicial.
vividly demonstrate the plaintiff’s dependency, limita- In order to be representational, day-in-the-life vid-
tions, and frustrations. This footage is intended to bring eos must have a foundation of accuracy and fairness.
jurors inside the plaintiff’s life in a way that is virtually The issue of “unringing the bell” may be addressed by
impossible to communicate with mere words1, and cir- requiring the trial court judge to examine the particular
cumvents the impracticality of having jurors visit the video in camera to determine, whether the probative
plaintiff themselves to witness the plaintiff’s injuries value of the particular videotape outweighs the possi-
and challenges firsthand. Day-in-the-life video presen- bility of prejudice.
tations are powerful tools for personal injury cases— To be admissible, day-in-the-life videos should not
but can you get them admitted as evidence? contain inter alia, artistic highlighting that emphasizes
Although day-in-the-life videos are considered similar some scenes more than others, obvious exaggerations,
to in-court demonstrations of injuries, their admissibility self-serving behavior by the subject/plaintiff(s), scenes
is subject to broad, although not absolute, judicial dis- that serve mainly to create sympathy, or those that con-
cretion2. The party submitting the video must provide tain other unduly inflammatory material.
the appropriate legal foundation for its admission. Most It’s best to hire an experienced legal video produc-
courts will admit such day-in-the-life videos provided tion company that understands these common admis-
that (1) their probative value outweighs any prejudice to sibility requirements. The key to success is an open
the defendant, and (2) there are no demonstrated impro- dialogue between the commissioning attorney and the
prieties in the video’s content or production techniques. video production team. n
The party proffering the video as evidence must
show that the videotape is an accurate portrayal of the 1. M. Dombroff, Dombroff on Demonstrative Evidence § § 124-51 (1983 & Supp. 1990)
events depicted. Someone who has personal knowledge 2. McCormick on Evidence §214 19 (4th Ed.)
of the videotape’s contents and is available for in-court Courtesy of Mark Alexander, Verdict Videos
cross-examination must lay the foundation: typically
Alexander is president of Verdict Videos [www.verdictvideos.com], which
the plaintiff, a caregiver, or the most knowledgeable produces day-in-the-life settlement documentaries and wrongful-death
person for the video production company. video portraits for plaintiffs attorneys throughout California.
58 NOVEMBER 2011 CALLAWYER.COM
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