Must a plaintiff physically appear in court for a civil litigation trial?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Must a plaintiff physically appear in court for a civil litigation trial?

Can just their attorneys appear or can they appear via Skype or some similar audio/video technology if they out of country and/or physically disabled?

Asked on February 15, 2016 under Business Law, Connecticut


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

1) An attorney cannot testify as to facts--it requires someone with personal knowledge to do so. Typically, that is the plaintiff--one could imagine that in business cases, there could be some employee or agent of the plaintiff that would know everything that the plaintiff would have to testify to, and so the plaintiff him/herself would be unnecessary to his/her own case, but that would be the exception, and would not apply in any sort of tort, personal injury, malpractice, etc. case where the plaintiff's own testimony is vital.
2) Of course, even if it was one of those rare cases where the plaintiff could put on his/her own case with the use of other witnesses, the defendant has an absolute right to call the plaintif as a witness and force him/her to appear.
Overally, it is almost impossible to conceive of a case where the plaintiff would not have to testify.
3) Being out of the country is NO grounds to not appear--a judge would find that if it's more important to be out of the country than appear for a lawsuit which the plaintiff, after all, started (it's the plaintiff's case), that's the plaintiffi's choice...the lawsuit will be dismissed and/or a judgment rendered for the defendant if the plaintiff was necessary and did not appear. The plaintiff would have to choose between his/her suit and whatever he/she is doing extraterritorially. If the absence is known in advance, it may be possible to reschedule the trial for when the plaintiff is available, but that can't be done on the eve of trial.
4) IF the plaintiff is disabled to the point where he/she *cannot* appear--e.g. on life support; or actively in the hospital undergoing treatment at that moment--then it is likely that upon proper application, a judge will allow video testimony, though if it looks like the plaintiff could appear in the future, the judge may adjourn or delay the case.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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