Ando v. Woodberry
8 N.Y.2d 165, 203 N.Y.S.2d 74, 168 N.E.2d 520 (1960)

  • Nichols was driving Woodberry’s car when he ran into Ando’s motorcycle, injuring him.
  • Nichols received a traffic ticket for making an illegal left turn and not signaling.
    • He pled guilty and paid the fine.
  • Ando sued Nichols and Woodberry for negligence.
  • At trial, Nichols testified that he had used his signal and did not make an illegal turn.
  • Ando attempted to introduce Nichols’ guilty plea for the traffic offence.
    • Nichols’ objected on the grounds that the out-of-court document was hearsay.
    • Ando argued that the guilty plea constituted an admission and as such was an exception to hearsay.
    • Nichols argued that a traffic ticket is distinguishable from a crime and that there are numerous reasons to plead guilty rather than contest the ticket in court.  Therefore it should not be considered an admission.
      • New York did not offer people the option of pleading ‘no contest’ (aka nolo contendere), and so Nichols was basically arguing that he was really pleading no contest by pleading guilty.
  • The Trial Judge excluded the evidence.
  • The Trial Court found Nichols not guilty of negligence.  Ando appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.  Ando appealed.
  • The New York Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial.
    • The New York Supreme Court found that Nichols’ plea was relevant to the issue of negligence.
    • The Court found that Nichols’ plea did amount to an admission under the common-law exception to hearsay.
    • The Court found that Nichols’ argument about pleading guilty because of reasons other than guilt was more properly addressed as an issue of weight, not admissibility.
      • Nichols could tell the jury the reasons he pled guilty and have them decide what that guilty plea was really worth.
  • This evidence is not admissible against Woodberry, so a limiting instruction would be appropriate if they were being tried together.
  • In general, in jurisdictions where people can plead nolo contendere, that plea cannot be used against them.
  • This case was decided under the common law.  Today pleas would be covered by FRE 410 and convictions covered by FRE 803(22).