In some Florida personal injury cases, either or both parties will rely on the testimony of an expert witness to help prove their case. Typically, expert witnesses are not needed. However, if the issues involved in a case are complex and beyond the common understanding of the jurors, then an expert witness may help the jury resolve these issues.
Florida law requires that parties disclose the names of the experts they will be calling. Additionally, the law requires that a party provides an overview of the witness’ expected testimony. A recent opinion released by a state appellate court discusses the ramifications if proper notice of expert witness testimony is not given.
According to the written opinion, the plaintiff was incarcerated at a county jail when he was injured in a bus accident. The plaintiff brought a personal injury claim against the county. The county initially did not plan on calling an expert witness. However, during pre-trial discovery, it was revealed that the plaintiff was involved in two other vehicle accidents and that he planned on calling an expert witness at trial. One of the accidents occurred after this bus accident but before the case went to trial, complicating the question of what caused the plaintiff’s damages. In light of the new information, the county then named an expert witness, who would testify solely to impeach the plaintiff’s medical expert.
At trial, after the plaintiff finished presenting his case, the county called its expert. The expert cited multiple reasons as to why he did not agree with the plaintiff’s expert’s conclusion. The plaintiff objected, claiming that the county’s expert testimony exceeded the scope of direct examination and was prejudicial in that it constituted opinion evidence. The court overruled the objection and allowed the county’s expert to testify. The jury awarded the plaintiff only $5,000. The plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the court held that the county’s expert testimony exceeded its permissible scope and was prejudicial. The court explained that impeachment evidence may include “testimony to the falsity or nonexistence of any fact used as the foundation for any opinion by any other party’s expert witness, but may not include testimony that contradicts the opinion.”
Here, the court noted that the county’s expert listed the reasons why he disagreed with the plaintiff’s expert. This testimony, the court reasoned, went beyond impeachment evidence and entered the realm of opinion evidence. While opinion evidence can be proper from an expert witness, such testimony must be disclosed before trial. Because the county’s expert testimony exceeded its permissible scope, the court reversed the $5,000 judgment and ordered a new trial.
Have You Been Injured in a Florida Bus Accident?
If you or someone you care about was recently injured in a Florida bus accident, or any other type of Florida motor vehicle collision, the dedicated injury lawyers at Friedman Rodman & Frank can help. At our South Florida personal injury law firm, we proudly represent injury victims and their families in a wide range of claims, including Florida semi-truck collisions, slip and fall accidents, and medical malpractice claims. To begin the process, call 877-448-8585 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation today.