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.


CPLR 4545 and 4547

CPLR § 4545 Admissibility of collateral source of payment

CPLR § 4547 Compromise and offers to compromise

Casa Redimix Concrete Corp. v Westway Indus. Inc., 2012 NY Slip Op 00407 (1st Dept., 2012)

In addition, plaintiff presented documentary evidence that its specific claim was presented to the surety by Hunts Point in the reformation action. It may be, as Hunts Point's general manager claimed, that this documentation was "merely a tabulation by Hunts Point, as project owner, of the various claims by Westway subs and suppliers that had been made or payments that were outstanding at the time." However, in light of inferences drawn in plaintiff's favor, this fact suggests that plaintiff's claim was at issue in the reformation action. The motion court improperly refused to consider this evidence, since nothing in the record establishes that it is inadmissible under CPLR 4547.

Turuseta v Wyassup-Laurel Glen Corp., 2012 NY Slip Op 00202 (2nd Dept., 2012)

CPLR 4545(a) provides, in relevant part, that "[a]ny collateral source deduction required by this subdivision shall be made by the trial court after the rendering of the jury's verdict." [*2]The statute, by its terms, does not specify the procedures to be employed by the trial court in making the appropriate deductions, and does not specify a time limit within which a defendant may request a hearing to determine the appropriate amount of the deductions. "[A]n application for a collateral source hearing may be timely made at any time before the judgment is entered, unless the court directs otherwise" (Firmes v Chase Manhattan Auto. Fin. Corp., 50 AD3d 18, 32). Here, the defendants established that a collateral source hearing was warranted by tendering "some competent evidence from available sources that the plaintiff's economic losses may in the past have been, or may in the future be, replaced, or the plaintiff indemnified, by collateral sources" (id. at 36; see Nunez v City of New York, 85 AD3d 885, 887-888). In addition, the time limit imposed by the Supreme Court for posttrial motions was clearly meant to encompass motions to set aside the verdict pursuant to CPLR 4404(a), as those types of motions are generally required to be made no later than 15 days after the verdict (see CPLR 4405; cf. Firmes v Chase Manhattan Auto. Fin. Corp., 50 AD3d at 32). Moreover, since "[i]t appears that [the plaintiff's] efforts to enter a judgment may have been undertaken, at least in part, to circumvent potential collateral source setoffs" (Firmes v Chase Manhattan Auto. Fin. Corp., 50 AD3d at 32), in light of the fact that entry of judgment was effected without notice while the defendants' CPLR 4404(a) motion to set aside the verdict was pending, the Supreme Court providently exercised its discretion in granting the defendants' motion for a collateral source hearing despite the fact that judgment had already been entered.