Indiana Court Discusses Admissibility of Expert Witness’s Disciplinary History in Recent Auto Accident Case

In June, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Indiana car accident case discussing whether an expert witness’s disciplinary history is admissible in a personal injury trial. Ultimately, the court concluded that such an account is admissible, but that in this case, specific evidentiary rules prevented the admission of the reasons for the disciplinary action.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was sitting in her vehicle at a stop sign when the defendant rear-ended her. The plaintiff went to the hospital, and was released that evening with a neck brace and a prescription for pain medication. Later, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant.

In support of her case, the plaintiff planned on presenting evidence from a treating physician who was going to be a medical expert at trial. The defendant asked the expert whether he was ever subject to any disciplinary proceedings, to which the expert responded affirmatively. However, the expert would not get into any details. Before trial, the defendant asked the court to compel the expert to disclose the reasons for the disciplinary action taken against him. The court denied the defendant’s request, holding that the fact that the expert was subject to prior disciplinary proceedings was not relevant because, at the time of trial, the expert’s medical license was valid. The jury ultimately returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, and the defendant appealed.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the court should have allowed her to present evidence of the expert’s disciplinary history and the reasons such action was taken. The court broke the defendant’s issues down into two separate questions, holding that the defendant should generally be allowed to discuss prior disciplinary action, but that in this case, the reason for the action was not admissible.

The court explained that expert testimony is a “valuable litigation tool,” especially in cases involving a battle of the experts where each side presents conflicting expert testimony. In such cases, one of the most critical aspects of an expert, the court elaborated, is the expert’s credibility. Because prior disciplinary action may weigh on an expert’s credibility, the court held that it should be admitted.

The court went on to hold that the reasons for disciplinary action taken against an expert witness is not categorically inadmissible, and that it will depend on the facts of each case. Here, the court held that specific rules of evidence precluded the admission of the reasons for the disciplinary action; however, the court explained that will not always be the case.

Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Car Accident?

If you or someone you care about has recently been injured in an Indiana car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. At the Indiana personal injury law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse, we represent injury victims in all types of personal injury claims, including those arising from car accidents. We also have a broad network of experts across the country that we use to help prove our clients’ cases. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation today, call 888-532-7766 today.