(CN) - An injured construction worker was denied a fair trial when the defense attorney exclaimed, "What a liar!" after summarizing the testimony of the worker's expert witness, a New York appellate division ruled. The lawyer also referred to the testimony as "totally incredible" and "kind of tweaker."
Rafael Rodriguez and his wife requested a new trial after the jury awarded them only $74,000 for lost earnings and $26,000 for pain and suffering.
In his opening statement, defense counsel stated that Rodriguez, who claimed he couldn't work after he fell from scaffolding, was disabled due to "lung problems," a blood infection and his treatment for hepatitis C. In closing arguments, the attorney discounted the testimony of Rodriguez's vocational economic analyst and chiropractor, asking jurors, "Why do they lie to you?"
He went on to say: "It's not a lottery. It's not a game. It's not, 'Here's the American dream, come over here, fall off a scaffold, get a million dollars.'"
"Such comments, which were not isolated, were plainly prejudicial and designed to deprive the plaintiffs of their right to a fair trial," the Second Department Appellate Division in Brooklyn ruled.
The court vacated the verdict and granted Rodriguez a new trial.