As seasoned litigators know, it is critical for your witnesses to perform well in court.  Sometimes, it can make the difference between winning and losing a case.  In the case of Fernandito Rivera v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. (Civil Action No. CPU4-14-003168) — a case recently tried in the Delaware Court of Common Pleas — the plaintiff lost the case for a variety of reasons, but the court made it clear that the plaintiff's trial testimony was "less than compelling."  This certainly contributed to the plaintiff's defeat.

In Rivera v. State Farm, the plaintiff, Mr. Rivera, sued his insurance carrier for breach of contract, alleging that State Farm breached the parties' insurance agreement by failing to pay for his medical expenses after he was involved in a car accident.

After trial, the court (Judge John K. Welch) weighed the evidence and found that Mr. Rivera did not meet his burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the medical services he received were necessary and that the bills or charges for those services were reasonable.  In reviewing the medical records and expert reports, the court found that Mr. Rivera's injuries were pre-existing and thus not compensable under his insurance agreement with State Farm.

Importantly, the court also noted the following:  "Plaintiff, as the only fact witness to provide live testimony, was less than compelling.  Plaintiff was unable to recall what medications he took or when he received medical treatment, and often times, contradicted himself.  Plaintiff was also unable to explain why he waited five weeks after the March 2013 accident before seeking medical treatment and what caused him to seek such treatment.  Additionally, Plaintiff could not provide details of the April 2009 accident, the injuries he sustained and the treatment he received as a result of the accident to the Court's satisfaction."  The full opinion is available here.

The comments from the court underscore the importance of making sure that one's witnesses are prepared to testify at trial.  Unpreparedness can cost you the case.

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