Court Permits Inquiry into Relationship Between Expert Witness and Attorney in Florida Car Accident Case

A district court of appeal recently issued an opinion in a Florida car accident lawsuit against a driver and his employer. The case stems from injuries the plaintiff suffered when the defendant rear-ended him at a red light. The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the driver and a vicarious liability claim against the driver’s employer. The trial court bifurcated the defendant’s trials and declined to exclude evidence of the employee’s intoxication during the compensatory damages phase. As such, the plaintiff’s attorney addressed the employee’s intoxication during his opening and closing statements. Further, during the trial, the plaintiff presented several medical experts.

At issue is the plaintiff’s attorney’s friendship with one of the medical experts he presented. On appeal, the defendants allege that the trial court erred in allowing the employee’s intoxication and the court’s limitation on their cross-examination of the relationship between the medical expert and attorney. The court ordered a new trial based on the trial court’s error in allowing evidence of the defendant’s intoxication. They found that the inquiry was substantially prejudicial and lacked relevancy. As such, they addressed the trial court’s decision to limit the defense’s examination of the plaintiff’s experts.

The trial court did not permit the presentation of some of the plaintiff’s expert witnesses because of an untimely designation issue. However, the issue occurred because the plaintiff waited until the day before the trial to make the expert’s initial designations. The appeals court reasoned that this action placed the defendant at a disadvantage because they could not present certain parts of the deposition. Further, the court found that in situations where attorneys elect to use their personal friends as experts, they should expect inquiries into their relationship. Therefore, the court should permit the defense to question the relationship and address any issues of bias.

This case highlights the importance of retaining an appropriate expert witness. In addition to an expert’s qualifications, plaintiffs’ attorneys should ensure that the expert will not face disqualification because of bias. Under the law, a court may disqualify an expert witness if they have a conflict of interest or a bias with the case. In other situations, an expert may face disqualification, but their opinion may still be admissible. However, the bias may diminish the weight of the expert’s opinion.

Have You Suffered Injuries in a Florida Accident?

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a Florida car accident, contact the attorneys at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada. Our law firm attorneys have extensive experience handling Florida personal injury cases stemming from car accidents, defective products, premises liability, and medical malpractice. Our skilled and experienced attorneys understand the various challenges that Florida injury cases can present. The lawyers at our firm maintain an active practice keeping apprised of all relevant statutory and procedural rules. Through our dedicated representation and advocacy, our clients have recovered significant compensation for their injuries. Contact our office at 877-448-8585, to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our firm. Calling is free, and you will not be charged for any of our services unless we can help you recover for your injuries.

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