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Subsequent Repairs Held Inadmissible to Prove that Defendant’s Initial Repairs were Negligent
Consol. Waste Indus., Inc. v. Standard Equip. Co.
In Consolidated Waste Industries, Inc. v. Standard Equipment Co., Consolidated Waste Industries, Inc. (“Consolidated”) sued Standard Equipment Co. (“Standard”) for allegedly negligently repairing a John Deere 744J Loader (“Hauler”). To support its claim against Standard, Consolidated attempted to introduce evidence of subsequent repairs to the Hauler. The trial court, however, ruled that the subsequent repairs were inadmissible. The Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed the Trial Court’s ruling.
The Hauler is a piece of heavy machinery designed specifically for transporting solid waste. On June 7, 2005, Consolidated, a refuse removal company, purchased the Hauler from Standard for $424,647.00. Consolidated operated the Hauler five (5) and a half days per week for thirteen (13) hours per day.
Between February 2007 and April 2008, Consolidated experienced a string of problems with the Hauler’s steering. As a result, Consolidated repeatedly employed Standard to repair the Hauler. Indeed, Consolidated sent the Hauler to Standard for repair three (3) times over that period. Between February 2007 and April 2008, Standard worked on the Hauler for a total of nine (9) months and Standard billed Consolidated a total of $33,623.73. Consolidated paid all of the invoices from Standard.
In December 2009, Consolidated again experienced the exact same steering problem. This time, Consolidated took the Hauler to Carter Machinery (“Carter”), which flushed and cleaned the entire hydraulic system. The Hauler has properly worked since Carter cleaned the hydraulic system.
As a result of the repeated repairs on the Hauler, Consolidated filed suit against Standard and alleged breach of contract, negligence, and unjust enrichment. Consolidated argued that the Hauler required multiple repairs as a result of Standard’s negligence. To support its claim, Consolidated attempted to introduce evidence of the repairs that Carter made, which ultimately fixed the Hauler. The Trial Court, however, did not permit Consolidated to offer evidence of subsequent repairs, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Standard.
Consolidated appealed the Trial Court’s ruling on the subsequent repairs, and the Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals first assessed whether the subsequent repairs were relevant. The Court of Appeals found that the subsequent repairs were probative of the proper way in which the Hauler should have been repaired. The Court of Appeals next assessed whether the probative value of the subsequent repairs was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. The Court of Appeals held that the Trial Court did not abuse his discretion in finding that the subsequent repairs were prejudicial because they occurred over a year and a half after the final repairs by Standard. Therefore, there was a danger that the jury could find Standard negligent simply because the Hauler required subsequent repairs, even though a year and a half had passed between the two (2) repairs. As such, the Court of Appeals upheld the Trial Court’s ruling.
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