INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
The immigration status of a Mexican native who is suing over lost wages in a
workplace injury case should not be considered at trial because it can cause
unfair prejudice, the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled.
The state’s high
court reversed a lower court ruling that the immigration status of Noe
Escamilla was admissible in his lawsuit against an Indianapolis construction
company. Escamilla, who entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico with his
parents at age 15, married a U.S. citizen and has three children who are
also American citizens, his attorney has said.
trials should be about making injured parties whole - not about federal
immigration policies and laws,” the high court said in a 5-0 ruling written
by Chief Justice Loretta Rush and issued Thursday.
Shiel Sexton Co. Inc. for lost future wages after he slipped on ice in 2010
and severely injured his back while helping to lift a heavy masonry capstone
at Wabash College in Crawfordsville. Court documents say a doctor found
Escamilla’s injury left him unable to lift more than 20 pounds, effectively
ending his career as a masonry laborer.
is a lawful resident of Mexico, Shiel Sexton argued that any lost wages he
is able to claim should be based on the rate of pay in Mexico, and not the
U.S. A Montgomery County trial court ruled in Shiel Sexton’s favor, finding
that two witnesses who re-viewed Escamilla’s U.S. tax returns could not
testify about his lost earnings and that his immigration status could be
entered as evidence.
opinion said the Indiana Constitution’s Open Courts Clause allows
unauthorized immigrants to pursue claims for decreased earning capacity
damages. It also said “that while a plaintiff’s unauthorized immigration
status is relevant to decreased earning capacity damages, admitting it would
result in a collateral mini-trial on immigration - a mini-trial that brings
significant risks of confusing the issues and unfair prejudice.”
Such risks outweigh
the relevance of the immigration status, making it inadmissible in most
cases, the ruling said.
The court sent the
case back to the trial court with instructions on reconsidering the
testimony of the two witnesses who were to testify about Escamilla’s lost