Saturday, March 5, 2005

9th Cir. finds evidentiary errors, discusses standard for harmless error

In Obrey v. Johnson, 400 F.3d 691 [citation added 4/1], 2005 WL 502861 (9th Cir. March 4, 2005), Find Result - 2005 WL 502861, an employment discrimination case, the court reviewed the district court's exclusion of expert statistical evidence and testimony by several coworkers, finding, in each case that the district court erred.

The court then discussed its standard for determining when error results in sufficient prejudice to warrant a new trial.

[W]hen reviewing the effect of erroneous evidentiary rulings, we will begin with a presumption of prejudice. That presumption can be rebutted by a showing that it is more probable than not that the jury would have reached the same verdict even if the evidence had been admitted.
Id. at *9. In this case, the court concluded:
We thus cannot state that it is more probable than not that the jury was unaffected by the erroneous exclusion of the plaintiff's principal evidence. Accordingly, we hold that the district court's erroneous exclusion of the Dannemiller study, the testimony of Mr. Toyama, and the anecdotal testimony of three Shipyard workers was an abuse of discretion requiring reversal. The erroneous exclusion was not harmless.

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