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Trial Court May Set Time Limits on Witness Examination

Gamboa v. Metzler, 575 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 21 (App., Div. I, February 2, 2010) (J. Portley)

COURT HAS DISCRETION TO PLACE REASONABLE TIME LIMITS UPON CROSSEXAMINATION UNDER RULE 611 (a) OF EVIDENCE AND RULE 16 (h) ARIZONA RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE

Plaintiff sued defendant for injuries arising out a car accident. Plaintiff's attorney failed to present enough witnesses on second day of trial to fill the day. The parties then agreed to a schedule for the witnesses for the remaining two days of trial. Plaintiff's attorney however neglected to inform a witness of the new schedule so was unable to comply the next day. Further accommodation was made by the court but the accommodation resulted in the defendants scheduled witness not being called until late in the day. The court allowed plaintiff to cross examine the witness for roughly 45 minutes going 30 minutes past the usual time of 4:30 p.m. for ending testimony. The court would not however allow plaintiff to go past 5:04 p.m. with his cross-examination. The jury awarded $111,000 and apportioned 60% fault on the plaintiff for failure to wear his seatbelt.

Plaintiff claimed error in limiting his cross examination of defendant's witness. The Court of Appeals acknowledged that Rule 611 (a) of the Rules of Evidence allows the court "reasonable control over the mode and order of interrogating witnesses" and Rule 16 (h) permits the court to set "reasonable time limits on trial proceedings."

Here where plaintiff failed to ask the court to bring the witness back the next day for further cross examination, failed to make an offer of proof or show how the limitation on cross prejudiced the plaintiff and where the time limit was a direct result of plaintiff's counsel's failure to produce witnesses on schedule, the limitation on cross was appropriate.

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