Does a pre-litigation, unsworn statement constitute “testimony” sufficient to invoke the sham affidavit rule when a party subsequently testifies in an inconsistent manner? Instead of addressing this important question, both the majority and dissent in Wilson v. Gaston County, No. 15-2522 (4th Cir. April 13, 2017) (unpublished), assume that prior written statements of the plaintiff can be considered “testimony” for purposes of invoking the sham affidavit rule. By failing to make this initial inquiry, the court used the sham affidavit rule to sweep away a party’s deposition testimony in favor of two written statements that were not given under oath.
The 4th Circuit first invoked the sham affidavit rule when it stated “[a] genuine issue of material fact is not created where the only issue of fact is to determine which of the two conflicting versions of the [party’s] testimony is correct.” Barwick v. Celotex Corp., 736 F.2d 946, 960 (4th Cir. 1984) (emphasis added). The use of the word “testimony” is not by accident and has a specific meaning: “evidence that a competent witness under oath or affirmation gives at trial or in an affidavit or deposition.” Black’s Law Dictionary 1485 (7th ed. 1999). In fact, the 4th Circuit has specifically stated that statements not given under oath and not subject to cross-examination are not equivalent to deposition testimony, and as such, that applying the sham affidavit rule in such contexts is inappropriate. Shockley v. City of Newport News, 997 F.2d 18 (4th Cir. 1993); see also Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152 (9th Cir. 1999). Heeding these principles, virtually all courts have required both versions of the facts to take the form of “testimony,” such as depositions versus affidavits, contradictions within sworn statements, testimony versus sworn EEOC charge, and affidavit versus verified document. But see McDevitt & St. Co. v. Seaboard Sur. Co., 1995 U.S. App. LEXIS 15076 (4th Cir. June 19, 1995) (misquoting Barwick while invoking sham affidavit rule when an affidavit directly contradicted the language in letters between the parties); Williams v. Genex Servs., LLC, 809 F.3d 103 (4th Cir. 2015) (sham affidavit rule invoked when plaintiff’s testimony conflicted with her resume).
https://ncbarblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Blog-Header-1-1030x530.png00NCBARBLOGhttps://ncbarblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Blog-Header-1-1030x530.pngNCBARBLOG2017-04-27 13:32:572017-04-27 13:32:574th Circuit Jumps To Conclusion That Sham Affidavit Rule Applies To Unsworn Statements