CPLR 4547 — Negotiations / Missing Witness / Hearsay

Matter of Chi-ChuanFile Wang, 2018 NY Slip Op 04090 [1st Dept. 2018]

Here, proponents challenge the documents and testimony admitted into evidence concerning settlement negotiations in Shanghai at which proponent provided objectant with paintings he denied having taken from decedent's bank vault. Although CPLR 4547 precludes presentation of evidence of settlement negotiations, it expressly exempts exclusion of evidence, which is otherwise discoverable, solely because such evidence was presented during the course of settlement negotiations.

The list of paintings that was signed by proponent as part of the settlement conference in Shanghai was admitted into evidence because it included a factual admission that proponent possessed a painting that he accused objectant of stealing. Thus, its use at trial was permissible, notwithstanding that the factual statement was contained in a settlement document (see PRG Brokerage Inc. v Aramarine Brokerage, Inc., 107 AD3d 559, 560 [1st Dept 2013]).

Proponents also challenge the court's missing witness charge with respect to two of decedent's treating doctors in the hospital and the attorney who drafted the will. The court did not improvidently exercise its discretion in providing a missing witness charge with respect to decedent's treating doctors. The court's missing witness charge with respect to the attorney, Jerome Kamerman, was in error. Mr. Kamerman was living in Florida at the time of trial and was unavailable to proponents (see Zeeck v Melina Taxi Co., 177 AD2d 692, 694 [1st Dept 1991] [Proof that a witness is beyond the jurisdiction of the court is ordinarily sufficient to bar the inference as a matter of law]; People v Gonzalez, 68 N.Y.2d 424, 428 [1986]). In light of the testimony at trial regarding decedent's testamentary capacity, we find the error to be harmless as a matter of law (see CPLR 2002; Nestorowich v Ricotta, 97 NY 2d 393 [2002] ["viewing the charge as a whole, and in light of the evidence presented, counsel's arguments and the otherwise proper jury instructions, there is no indication that the error in judgment' charge clouded the issue or negatively influenced the jury's determination"]).

Emphasis is mine

Finally, proponents challenge the testimony of objectant's expert because his opinion was based in part on conversations with objectant regarding decedent's mental capacity. A psychiatrist's opinion may be received in evidence even though some of the information on which it is based is inadmissible hearsay, if the hearsay is "of a kind accepted in the profession as reliable in forming a professional opinion, or if it comes from a witness subject to full cross-examination on [] trial" (People v Goldstein, 6 NY3d 119, 124 [2005], cert denied 547 US 1159 [2006]). The court properly permitted the expert to testify, despite his conversations with objectant, since she was subject to full cross-examination at trial.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s