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Rebuttal Testimony In District Of Columbia

The trial court has "considerable discretion" in deciding whether to admit testimony in rebuttal. Adkins v. Morton, 494 A.2d 652, 663 (D.C. 1985); see generally Cahan v. Cokas, 181 A.2d 342 (D.C. 1962) ("The trial judge has wide discretion in respect to the order of proof.").

That discretion, of course, must be exercised in keeping with the purposes of rebuttal. Certainly "a change in litigation strategy is not normally permitted on rebuttal," Allen v. Prince George's County, 737 F.2d 1299, 1305 (4th Cir. 1984), nor is rebuttal "an opportunity for the correction of any oversights in the plaintiff's case-in-chief." Step-Saver Data Sys., Inc. v. Wyse Tech., 752 F. Supp. 181, 193 (D.C. Pa. 1990), aff'd and rev'd on other grounds, 939 F.2d 91 (3d Cir. 1991);

see Brennan v. Jones, 176 A.2d 877, 878 (D.C. 1962) (sustaining exclusion "as rebuttal testimony of that which should have been introduced by the plaintiff in his case in chief").

Moreover, "if proffered rebuttal testimony would be cumulative of the case in chief, the trial court may disallow it as surplusage." Cooper v. Safeway Stores, Inc., 629 A.2d 31, 35 (D.C. 1993).

On the other hand, if testimony is intended to "meet something new, which was brought out by the defendant, and which could not have been anticipated by the plaintiff," it falls "clearly within the rule governing the admission of rebuttal testimony." Berry v. Littlefield, Alvord & Co., 54 App. D.C. 195, 196, 296 F. 285, 286 (1924).

The dual requirement that the rebuttal meet "something new" that could not have been anticipated serves both to ensure the orderly presentation of proof and to prevent "the most common and most detrimental -- type of surprise which arises where one party seeks to infuse new issues or defenses into the litigation." Habtu v. Woldemichael, 694 A.2d 846, 849 n.4 (D.C. 1997).

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