Washington Case Law Update: When are Pre-existing Conditions Admissible?

Attorney Profile Case Update Template - Kyle


Washington Case Law Update: When are Pre-existing Conditions Admissible?

From the Desk of Kyle D. Riley: Under Washington law, an asymptomatic preexisting condition is generally not admissible in court.  Whether a condition is actually asymptomatic, however, can be disputed.  Read on to see how the appellate courts may handle such a dispute.

Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of a car accident, the Washington Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s partial denial of the plaintiff’s motion in limine seeking to exclude evidence of a prior injury.  The case provides valuable insight into the appellate approach to a dispute regarding medical evidence.

Cutone v. Law, No. 73926-3-I, Washington Court of Appeals, Div. I (September 6, 2016) (unpublished)

Anne Cutone (“Cutone”) and Wai Law (“Law”) were involved in a car accident, after which Law admitted he was negligent.  Despite that admission, the parties could not agree on causation and damages, and they proceeded to trial.

Cutone claimed that the accident gave her thoracic outlet syndrome.  Law disagreed, arguing that Cutone’s complaints were actually caused by a prior injury and not the car accident.  Cutone moved in limine to exclude evidence of her prior injuries.  The trial court denied the motion in part and allowed Law to question expert witnesses about whether prior injuries could have caused Cutone’s claimed injuries.  However, the trial court specifically prohibited Law from mentioning that a prior car accident caused the prior injury.

During trial, Cutone’s treating physicians concluded that the car accident caused her claimed thoracic outlet syndrome.  Law’s medical expert, who performed a court-ordered medical examination of Cutone prior to trial, testified that she did not sustain thoracic outlet syndrome or any other injuries from the car accident.  The jury found for Cutone and awarded her $5,480 for past economic and noneconomic damages.  Cutone appealed.


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