Fuentes v. Tucker – Case Brief
Fuentes v. Tucker, 31 Cal.2d 1, 187 P.2d 752 (1947).
Facts: Ps two minor sons were killed by a drunk driver in a car accident. D filed an amended answer on the day of the trial in which he admitted he admitted liability. Ps were permitted to present evidence to prove that D was intoxicated and that the children were thrown 80 feet by the force of the impact. Ps were awarded $7,500 and D appealed.
Issue: Is the introduction of evidence which is material solely to a matter excluded from a case by an admission grounds for error?
Holding and Rule: Yes. The introduction of evidence which is material solely to a matter excluded from a case by an admission is grounds for error.
This does not mean that an admission of liability precludes P from showing how an accident happened if such evidence is material to the issue of damages. However in an action for wrongful death of a minor child where damages consist only of monetary loss, the manner in which the accident occurred could have no bearing on the elements of damage. Admission of the evidence was in error. However, when a party seeks to deprive his opponent of the legitimate force and effect of material evidence by the bald admission of a probative fact, the introduction of evidence of admitted facts is permissible.
The court held that $7,500 could not be said to be an unreasonable amount for the wrongful death of a child and the verdict does not indicate that the jury was unduly influenced by the errors.
Concurring (Carter): The injured person should not be denied the benefit of presenting to the trier of fact the entire factual situation surrounding the accident out of which the injury arose if the purpose on admission is to hide the true facts from the trier of fact.