The Use of Expert Testimony in Personal Injury Lawsuits

In navigating the complex waters of lawsuits, personal injury cases will often require the use of experts to make it through the waves of unclear facts. An expert is oftentimes a professional (although this is not a requirement) in a given field that can help lend credibility to a plaintiff’s (or defendant’s) theory in the eyes of a judge or jury. Experts do this by persuasively demonstrating knowledge of the facts and legal issues at hand that support a judgment in favor of one side or the other.

In Bozarth v. State of Louisiana LSU Medical Center, the plaintiff’s case hinged partially on whether the trial judge correctly admitted the testimony of the defendant’s expert, Dr. Mary Eschete. Bozarth was originally a medical malpractice case in which the plaintiffs sued Louisiana State University Regional Medical Center for

fail[ing] to properly diagnose and treat Mr. Bozarth and for negligently proscribing medications and discharging Mr. Bozarth under the circumstances.

After the trial court had dismissed the plaintiffís case, they appealed, citing that admitting the testimony of Dr. Eschete was in error, since she herself was a former defendant and was the trial judge’s childhood friend.

The court cited a Louisiana case from 1999, Pelts & Skins Export v. Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, for the proposition that neither bias of an expert witness, nor

the fact that a witness is a party or an employee of a party precludes a witness from being qualified as an expert.

The court noted that no provision of the Louisiana Code of Evidence supported the disqualification of Dr. Eschete as an expert witness, and that consequently there was no error in allowing her to testify.

When a case reaches the appellate level, or second level, of the state court system in Louisiana, the appellate court reviews most decisions via an “abuse of discretion” standard. This means, for example, that instead of reviewing evidence de novo (meaning “anew” or “from the beginning”), the court will decide whether the trial judge exercised his discretion in an impartial and fair manner on specific elements of the case, such as testimony, evidence, etc.

Typically this standard of review is highly deferential to the trial judge’s decision. After all, the trial court judge saw all the evidence firsthand and witnessed the facts and testimony with his or her own eyes. The appellate court in Bozarth, applying this abuse of discretion standard, found that since the decision to admit Dr. Eschete’s testimony did not offend any Louisiana law, there could not have been an abuse of discretion.

The testimony of an expert in your case could mean the difference between a successful and failed lawsuit.

The Berniard Law Firm has handled hundreds of injury cases, many involving experts. Should you need our assistance in complex legal issues discussed in this article going forward, please do not hesitate to call us.

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