Understanding The Use Of Expert Testimony In Personal Injury Cases
Many personal injury cases require the use of expert testimony. An expert can offer context and understanding of certain technical issues that is normally beyond the experience of the average person–that is to say, the average juror. Trial courts use a test known as the Daubert standard to screen potential expert testimony. If the judge finds a proposed expert is not qualified, or their opinions are based on unreliable methods, the jury will not hear from that witness.
Judge Rebuffs Wal-Mart’s Effort to Exclude Expert in Slip and Fall Lawsuit
Defendants often try to exclude expert witnesses who might help bolster a personal injury victim’s case. Take this recent example from a federal court in Fort Myers, Ballesteros v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP. This is an ongoing slip-and-fall accident lawsuit. The plaintiff sought to introduce expert testimony, which the defense opposed. The judge decided to overrule the defense objection and allow the witness to testify.
The underlying case involves a plaintiff who slipped and fell on a puddle of water in the produce section of a Wal-Mart. The plaintiff’s expert witness has specific expertise about the type of flooring used in the Wal-Mart. The expert’s proposed testimony explains how this flooring is “unduly susceptible to falls” and caused the plaintiff’s accident.
In moving to exclude this testimony, Wal-Mart raised several arguments. First, it argued the expert lacked sufficient education, such as a postgraduate degree. The judge rejected this argument, pointing out a “bachelor’s in slip and fall isn’t necessary” to testify in a personal injury trial. And while Wal-Mart also insisted the expert lacked any relevant “professional licenses,” the judge said he actually had several certifications related to walkway surface safety. More to the point, the expert has been working “in the field of slip and fall accidents for at least 5 years” and has testified in about 40 trials. Indeed, he even once testified for Wal-Mart as a defense expert. So he was clearly qualified.
The judge similarly rejected challenges to the expert’s reliability and usefulness in this particular case. With respect to reliability, Wal-Mart asserted the expert “neither knew there was water on the ground nor conducted tests” to verify his opinions. But the judge said such arguments were “misplaced.” The expert could still testify that in his professional judgment, Wal-Mart’s flooring was unsafe if it were wet. Whether or not it was wet was a factual question for the jury to decide.
Finally, the judge said the expert had “specialized knowledge of water’s effect” on this specific flooring. That could prove useful to the jury in deciding Wal-Mart’s liability. Wal-Mart was certainly free to attack the expert’s conclusions at trial, but that was not grounds for excluding his testimony altogether.
Speak with a Florida Slip and Fall Attorney Today
Not all personal injury cases require the use of experts. But when such witnesses are required, it is important to work with a qualified Boynton Beach slip and fall accident lawyer who can help identify and prepare such testimony. Contact the Leifer Law Firm today if you need to speak with a personal injury attorney right away.