Expert witnesses, from construction expert witnesses to medical expert witnesses, are becoming a mainstay in modern litigation. Experts are brought on to discuss the intricacies of a case. Expert witness testimony helps to clarify the issues of fact for the jury. As different cases continue to utilize expert witness testimony, understanding how experts are brought in, and the issues they are asked to speak on, is critical to discerning how expert witness testimony can impact modern litigation. As such, we have compiled some recent case studies to illustrate the influence of a relevant and effective expert witness.
When a medical expert is brought in, there are specific rules, by statute or common law, for how the expert is qualified. Therefore, these rules must be followed to have their testimony deemed relevant and reliable. When the case involves an expert outside of the medical field, however, challenges exist in determining how an expert should deemed as such. Depending on the jurisdiction (and whether a Daubert or Frye standard is used), most courts use a combination of education and experience to determine whether the expert witness testimony is acceptable.
In a recent case, an engineering expert witness testified on the proper use of a chair. More specifically, whether manufacturers are aware that consumers may use their products to stand on. The case involved an injury to the plaintiff when his chair collapsed after he stood on it. The expert witness testimony addressed the considerations that designers take into account when constructing an item of furniture. Proper warnings if a particular weakness was detected need to be addressed. Additionally, because of the expert’s extensive experience in both the manufacturing of furniture and how individuals use furniture, he had the relevant experience to be deemed an expert.
Medical cases usually involve a series of layers and the actual procedure conducted, in addition to the individual specialty, is critical to establishing the expert’s reliability. In a recent case, an orthopedic surgeon allegedly attached screws to the patient’s Achilles tendon by mistake. As such, an orthopedic surgeon was brought in to provide expert witness testimony on the long-term effects of this result. Because of the actual procedure involved, finding an orthopedic surgeon familiar with Achilles injuries was critical. Orthopedic surgeon expert witnesses can focus on a number of areas. These include the knee, hip, ankle, and other parts of the body. If an orthopedic surgeon had not operated on an ankle in over ten years, then their testimony may not be as relevant as finding a surgeon who performs the procedure on a relatively regular basis.
During summer months, the prevalence of parties and other events on decks lead to an increase in collapsed decking cases. For example, in one of our cases, a summer barbecue led to a collapsed deck and subsequent injuries. The plaintiff alleged that the deck was not constructed appropriately (according to professional and regulatory standards). In order to discern this, the exact conditions of the deck (the angle of the ground, the wood used, the wear and tear, the climate, and the other items related to construction factors) were analyzed. This required extensive review and frequent communication between the attorney and the expert. This enables the construction expert to provide relevant expert witness testimony.
Interventional radiology, especially in stroke cases, is usually one step in a complex series of medical procedures used in the treatment of patients. Nurses, emergency medicine physicians, radiologists, and neurologists can all factor into treatment. As such, communication between parties can be as critical as actual treatment. In a recent case, a CT scan showed an ischemic stroke, and subsequent actions caused issues with the patient. Subsequently, the plaintiff’s attorney brought in an interventional radiologist expert witness. He addressed the procedures done, and how the steps involving radiology may have contributed to an unfavorable result for the plaintiff.