Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing the admissibility of the plaintiff’s proposed expert-witness testimony. The case raised an important issue that many Florida personal injury plaintiffs face when dealing with concepts that are beyond the scope of the common understanding of jurors and require an expert’s testimony.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff and her infant son were involved in an accident when a northbound semi-truck made a left in front of the plaintiff’s southbound vehicle. The plaintiff’s car crashed into the side of the semi-truck, and became wedged underneath the truck. The plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the trailer, arguing that her injuries were made worse by the fact that the truck did not have a side-underride guard. One of the elements the plaintiffs needed to establish to prove their case was whether there was “an alternative safer design” that was “practical under the circumstances.”
The plaintiff arranged to have two experts testify that, had the manufacturer installed telescoping side-underride guards, her vehicle would not likely have been wedged underneath the truck. While side-underride guards have existed for some time, telescoping side-underride guards have not yet been manufactured and have only been tested through computer simulations. Notably, due to the nature of the accident, the opinion of the plaintiff’s experts was that only a telescoping side-underride guard would have prevented or reduced the plaintiff’s injuries. This was due to the positioning of the truck’s rear axle at the time of the accident.