Court Permits Occupational Therapy Expert Witness to Discuss Life Care Planning


Occupational Therapy ExpertCourt: United States District Court for the Northern District of New York
Jurisdiction: Federal
Case Name: Corneli v. Adventure Racing Co., LLC
Citation: 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 104435

Facts

In this negligent supervision dispute, the plaintiff was left paralyzed below the belly button after being struck by a go-kart driven by a minor. The plaintiff proffered the opinion of an occupational therapy expert witness which the defendants moved to exclude.

The Occupational Therapy Expert

The plaintiff’s occupational therapy expert witness had 30+ years of experience as a specialist in prospective care and cost analysis. She served as an assistant trustee of the College of Occupational Therapists of Quebec, as a management consultant of the Ministry of Health and Social Services; and as an Occupational Therapist. The occupational therapy expert commonly conducted “needs” tests and tests for the physical and material help of clients, including physical constraints and palliative care tests. She held a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy and a master’s degree in business administration, plus additional courses in life care planning. As an expert witness, she concentrated on occupational therapy assessments in civil and administrative courts and submitted 167+ reports to the Quebec Superior Court. The expert provided an evaluation of the requirements of the plaintiff as a paraplegic as well as the expenses that the plaintiff would incur as a consequence of his injury.

Arguments for Preclusion

The defendant argued that the occupational therapy expert was not a skilled specialist, claiming that her curriculum vitae did not demonstrate any accreditation or credential as a life-care planner, medical doctor, or professional expert. The defendant argued that, in the lack of accreditation to give views as a licensed life care planner, the specialist was not qualified to give an opinion on the topics on which she intended to testify.

Discussion

The court observed that the defendant did not cite any authority on which to base its claim that an expert must be licensed in order to give a view on the topic. It was noted that the expert had 30+ years of experience working with people with disabilities, both in clinics and in their households. The court also observed that she had checked the plaintiff’s medical records and carried out an in-person evaluation of the plaintiff and his spouse at home. The court was of the view that the expert was acquainted with expenses and facilities in Quebec, Canada, where the plaintiff lived.

The court considered that extensive experience, such as that of the present occupational therapy expert, could represent a legitimate foundation for expert opinion, noting that an expert must show why “that experience is a sufficient basis for [his or her] opinion,” (citing Fed. R. Evid. 702 Advisory Committee Note).

Held

The court believed that the knowledge of the expert in occupational and rehabilitation therapy and life-care scheduling was adequately broad-based to fulfill that necessity. In the context of her 30-year knowledge, experience, skills, and practice in those specialist areas, the court denied the defendant’s plea to preclude the occupational therapy expert witness’s testimony.

 

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