Prince was driving a truck filled with cows. He crashed
and the cows escaped. The cows ran out into the road, and one of them
attacked and injured Davidson.
Davidson sued Prince for negligence for releasing
dangerous crazed cows into the road.
At trial, Davidson argued that he was about 40 feet away
from the cow when it charged.
Forensic evidence estimated the distance at about 22
Prince attempted to introduce a letter written by Davidson
to Prince, where he admitted that he was only about 10 feet away from the
cow when it charged.
The Trial Court found Prince negligent, but also found
Davidson 40% at fault for cornering the cow that attacked him. They
awarded $27k in damages. Davidson appealed.
Davidson argued that the letter was not admissible
because it was part of a settlement negotiation.
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The Appellate Court looked to Utah Rule 408
(identical to FRE 408), which basically says that offers to
compromise or settle a case are not admissible.
However, the Appellate Court looked at the language in
the letter Davidson had written and concluded that it was not an offer to
compromise, but instead just an attempt to inform Prince of the facts of
The letter demanded payment in full and suggested that
Davidson would not compromise one bit.
Basically, the rule is that if are trying to negotiate an
out-of-court settlement, any statements you make in the course of that
negotiations are inadmissible. However, that doesn't apply to all
correspondence with the opposing party, just settlement negotiations.