Salas v. Hi-Tech Erectors

This court case is completed

ACLU-WA filed an amicus brief supporting Mr. Salas before the Washington Supreme Court, explaining that evidence of immigration status admitted at trial was prejudicial. In 2002, Alex Salas was a carpenter climbing scaffolding at a work site on a wet day in October when he slipped and fell more than 20 feet. He suffered 10 fractures and underwent 13 surgeries, and sued the contractor who was responsible for his injuries. At the first trial in 2006, the contractor was ruled negligent as a matter of law but the jury refused to award any damages to Mr. Salas. At his first trial, the contractor was allowed to tell the King County jury that Mr. Salas had undocumented status at the time of his trial. Several jurors expressed anti-immigrant bias and participated in the ruling rejecting damages for Mr. Salas. He challenged the ruling and in 2009 the ACLU filed a friend of the court brief supporting his arguments in the Washington Supreme Court. Our brief explained that the evidence of his immigration status was improperly inflammatory and prejudicial. It “skewed the truth-finding process” and allowed an important legal decision to be based on the jury’s prejudices and speculation about deportation rather than the legally relevant facts. The state Supreme Court agreed and ordered a new trial where the facts about workplace conditions could be considered without the taint of anti-immigrant bias.
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