Photo Evidence Sufficient to Show Excessive Speed Without Expert Testimony

Supreme Court of RI, Silvestro GLIOTTONE v. Jeff ETHIER et al. No. 2004-162-Appeal.

In this case, Carl P. DeLuca, Esq. represented a party who had been in a car accident in Providence, Rhode Island and brought a claim against the party that struck him. The party, Driver 1, had been rendered unconscious as a result of the collision and could not testify as to what happened. He was stopped, waiting to make a left turn into a parking lot when he was struck. He began to make his turn and Driver 2, coming from the opposite direction, struck him.

Driver 2’s position was that he had he right of way and Driver 1 should not have made the turn in front of him. That is often the problem when automobile accidents occur when someone is making a left turn in front of traffic because they do not have the right of way and must be sure the path is clear before they turn. However, It was obvious from the damage to the cars that Driver 2 was speeding and at least partially responsible for the resulting damages, if not the collision itself. Unfortunately, Driver 1 could not testify that Driver 2 was speeding and there were no witnesses to testify as to how the car accident occurred.

The case went to trial, but Driver 1 did not have an expert to testify that the damage to the vehicles showed that Driver 2 was speeding. Instead, Driver 1’s attorney relied on pictures of the damage to the vehicles. Driver 2 filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that a jury could not be allowed to determine speed from the photos without the benefit of expert testimony explaining how the pictures proved that Driver 2 was speeding prior to the moment the vehicles collided.  The trial judge agreed and dismissed Driver 1’s case.

Attorney DeLuca did not represent Driver 1 in the case that was dismissed. However, Attorney DeLuca was hired to appeal the judge’s decision and successfully argued to the Rhode Island Supreme Court that the damage as depicted in the photographs was sufficient to demonstrate that Driver 2 was speeding just prior to the moment the cars collided even without the benefit of an expert, and that this evidence of speeding could indicate that Driver 2 was at least partially liable for Driver 1’s damages which he sustained as a result of the car accident.

The court held that, “Although the evidence of plaintiff’s negligence in this case is very strong, we are of the opinion that a jury reasonably could infer from the evidence presented by plaintiff that defendant may too have been negligent, at least to some degree, at the time of the collision.”

As a result, the trial court’s decision was overturned, Driver 1 was able to proceed with his personal injury claim against Driver 2 and it is now Rhode Island law that photographs of damage to the vehicles involved in a motor vehicle accident may be used as evidence of speed without the testimony of an expert.

Supreme Court of Rhode Island, Silvestro GLIOTTONE v. Jeff ETHIER et al., No. 2004-162-Appeal,  Decided: March 14, 2005

Carl P. DeLuca, Esq is an attorney practicing personal injury law in Warwick, RI.