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Federal Court Strikes Trucking Company Witnesses’ Changes To Errata

On January 19, 2011, Judge Jones in the District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued an Order and ruling in a truck accident case where the issue concerns whether he should strike an errata sheet of a Swift Trucking Company witness.

The truck accident in question occurred on October 30, 2007 in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania and a lawsuit was filed in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. As part of defending its driver, Swift Trucking alleged that the driver was suffering from “road hypnosis” which would explain why the driver took no evasive action to avoid the impact.

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After the deposition of the Swift Safety officer, several changes were made to the sworn testimony on an errata sheet. As a result, the other party filed a motion to strike the errata sheet under Rule 30(e) of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure. Judge Jones relies upon  Bartos v. Com. of Pennsylvania, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39964 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 23, 2010) where Magistrate Judge Carlson reviews the line of case law on permissible corrections to deposition testimony made through errata sheets. The court observes that the Swift witness made substantive changes to his deposition testimony which are not allowed. In two instances he changed the answers from “not to my knowledge” to unequivocal “yes sir” responses which also altered the subsequent line of questioning.

The Court writes, “a deposition is not a ‘take home examination’ and the Defendant cannot use an errata to change inartful responses made while under oath. Further, it is important to note that the areas of testimony changed by [the witness’] errata are critical, substantive responses that directly impact the [party’s] theory of the case. Accordingly, because we find the contents of the errata sheet improper under Rule 30(e), we shall grant the [party’s] Motion and strike the errata sheet.” The case is  Milam v. Amenounve, 4:09-cv-4 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 1, 2011).

However, keep in mind that a deposition in Pennsylvania state court,  is, however, a “take home examination” because Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 4017 (c) states, “Any changes in  form or substance which the witness desires to make shall be entered upon the deposition by the person before whom it was taken with a statement of the reasons given by the witness for making the changes.”

Scott B. Cooper
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