Federal Circuit Court Overseeing Indiana Addresses Expert Witness Requirements

Recently, an appellate court issued an opinion in a case dealing with an evidentiary issue that is applicable to many Indiana personal injury lawsuits.  According to the court’s written opinion, the case stemmed from an accident after an employee was injured when he was operating a car-crushing machine. The plaintiff sued the car manufacturer and the company that leased the machine to his employer. The plaintiff argued that the parties were liable under a defective design theory. The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants based on a finding that the plaintiff’s expert witness testimony was not admissible. The plaintiff appealed the granting of the defendant’s summary judgment motion.

The court explained that the threshold criteria for an expert witness is that the “expert can reliably apply the principles and methods to the facts of the case.” In this particular case, the plaintiff presented the opinion of a professor of mechanical engineering. Although the professor had a Ph.D., had published articles, and had over three decades of experience, the court found that his testimony did not meet the basic expert witness requirements.

Typically, Indiana requires expert testimony be based on “scientific, technical, or specialized knowledge.” Expert witnesses can be used to understand complex issues, strengths, and weaknesses of a case, and to oppose adverse experts. Indiana product liability lawsuits often require expert witnesses. An expert witness must meet a threshold requirement under the Federal Rules of Evidence. The witness must be able to “reliably apply the principles and methods to the facts” of a case. Moreover, they must possess the training, education, skills, and knowledge to assist the trier of fact in determining an issue.

In this case, the court found two major faults with the expert’s testimony. First, that he did not understand how to perform maintenance on the machine. And second, that he could not present any alternative design of the device in question. Based on these findings, the court found the expert’s testimony inadmissible. Therefore, the court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.

Plaintiffs must have reliable expert witnesses in their personal injury lawsuits. Expert witnesses should be able to provide a reasonable assessment of evidence and present clear and conclusive methodologies. A personal injury attorney can assist Indiana plaintiffs in finding an appropriate expert witness for their negligence lawsuits.

Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Accident?

If you or a loved one has been injured in an Indiana accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse. Indiana product liability lawsuits often raise many complex issues, and one of our experienced attorneys can assist you in understanding your case, and the likelihood of success. Expert testimony can make or break your case, and it is crucial that you have access to qualified, vetted experts. Over the past four decades, we have assembled an extensive network of expert witnesses across the country, who specialize in a variety of areas. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your case, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free initial consultation.