Open Door Doctrine

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The attorney conducting a redirect examination has the benefit of the Illinois Open Door Doctrine.  What this means is that any door or topic opened by the cross examiner for the purpose of eliciting testimony that damages the witness may be opened more fully on redirect examination so that the witness is not unfairly impeached and his credibility not unfairly challenged.  The redirect examiner must be sensitive to the innuendo or inference left by the cross examination and he must carefully return to the “doors” which were opened and which caused the unfavorable inferences.

In a Supreme Court case, a personal injury plaintiff was cross examined about certain conversations that he had with his employer.  The unemployed plaintiff was asked whether his employer had asked him to return to work, and the plaintiff replied that he had.  On redirect examination the plaintiff’s attorney was permitted to ask the plaintiff what was actually said to him by the employer when he asked him to go back to work.  The reply was that the employer told the plaintiff that he would have to sign something to the effect that the employer was not at fault in the matter of his injury.  The Supreme Court observed that “If it was any advantage to the defendants to prove that they asked the plaintiff to return to their service, they cannot complain that the court permitted him to testify to what was said between them at the time on that subject and that the offer was upon the condition that he would sign a release.”14

The rule in Illinois is that when a witness is questioned on cross examination about fragments of a conversation the attorney who called that witness may bring out the entire conversation on redirect examination.

In a street railway case where a witness had a conversation with a treating Doctor, the defendant objected to this conversation being related during the redirect examination of the witness but the Supreme Court stated:

We think the door was opened for this examination by the cross examination of the witness in which fragments of the conversation had been drawn out.15

In Williams v. Matlin,16 the plaintiff’s husband was impeached when the attorney for the defendant submitted a statement to him which was prepared by an investigator.  On redirect examination the attorney for the plaintiff asked the plaintiff who wrote the statement.  The witness replied that it was written by one of the men representing the Chicago Motor Club.  The First District noted that “Here the defendant sought to take advantage of an alleged impeaching statement signed by the plaintiff’s witness but prepared and obtained by an agent of the insurer.  The identity of the person preparing the statement, the nature of his employment and by whom employed became material for the purpose of showing his interest, if any, in the litigation.”17

The effectiveness of redirect examination was underscored in a recent Structural Work Act case.  A central issue in the case was whether the defendant was a person “having charge of” the work being performed within the meaning of the Act.  On cross examination the defense attorney asked the witness who was in charge of his workers in his absence.  The witness identified a person other than the defendant.  The attorney for the plaintiff on redirect asked the witness whether the defendant was a person “in charge of” the work to which he responded in the affirmative.  The Illinois Appellate Court stated:

The cross-examination opened the door to questions regarding who was in charge of the workers and it is our view that it was appropriate for plaintiff’s attorney on redirect examination to ask a similar question in regard to defendant lest the jury be misled into thinking that only one person could be in charge of the work.18

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