California Appeals Court Affirms Jury Verdict Entitling Defendant to Summary Judgment in Case Centered on “Battle of Experts” Following Motor Vehicle Collision

In a recent California appeal, a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit following a motor vehicle collision argued that the trial court should not have admitted certain portions of the defendant’s medical expert’s testimony.  Since the issues to be determined by the jury included negligence and causation, on appeal, the plaintiff argued that the jury verdict in favor of the defendant should be reversed. She contended the expert testified as to matters outside the scope of his expert designation, and that testimony should have been offered by an accident reconstruction expert.

At the trial level, the issue was whether the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s harm.  The facts showed that the defendant had been in his pickup truck, stopped about 10-12 feet behind the plaintiff’s car.  While reaching for an item in his cab, the defendant stated that his foot slipped off the brake, and his truck collided with the back of the plaintiff’s car.  At the time, there was minimal damage to the vehicles, and no emergency services or tow trucks were called. Both drivers separately drove away in their vehicles.

After the plaintiff filed a personal injury complaint against the defendant, the defendant conceded he was liable for the collision and property damage. The defendant denied that he had caused the plaintiff injuries.  The issues of causation and damages for the plaintiff’s injuries were tried by a jury, who found that the defendant’s negligence was not a substantial factor in causing harm to the plaintiff.

The defendant’s medical expert, a professor of orthopedic surgery, specialized in spinal surgery. He also stated that he serves as a certified traffic accident reconstructionist.  HIs testimony included his opinion that after reviewing the plaintiff’s medical records, her injuries were not due to the accident with the defendant, which had been a low-moderate impact collision.

The court on appeal stated that the plaintiff did not object to the expert’s testimony,  as required by California Evidence Code section 353.

First, the court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the judgment must be reversed because the court denied the motion for a new trial, based on the argument that the expert gave improper accident reconstruction testimony. The court stated the standard according to the Code of Civil Procedure, which states that a trial court’s judgment is not reversed unless it is arbitrary, capricious, or beyond the bounds of reason.

The court stated that the plaintiff’s arguments for a new trial were based on the notion that the expert gave “improper” expert testimony at the trial, specifically regarding accident reconstruction. The appellate court stated that this expert’s testimony was not necessarily different from the testimony of other doctors who were required to consider the force of the accident in order to explain their medical opinion regarding causation.  The court also stated that the majority of the testimony at issue in the plaintiff’s new trial motion was in fact elicited through the plaintiff’s own lawyer.

Additionally, the court stated that the expert’s testimony had not been demonstrably improper, and therefore it was reasonable for the trial court not to find the evidence insufficient in support of the verdict. In short, the court stated the case was a “battle of experts,” in which the jury decided the medical expert’s testimony was the most persuasive.

Presenting a strong case for compensation is essential in a personal injury lawsuit. At Sharifi Firm, our dedicated car accident attorneys have decades of experience seeking compensation for injured individuals and their families throughout Southern California.  To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a skilled lawyer in our office, call 1-866-422-7222 or complete our online form.

More Blog Posts:

Appellate Court Affirms No Cause of Action for Parent-Child Loss of Consortium Claim in California, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, April 17, 2017

Judgment in Favor of Defendant Transit System Upheld in Vehicle Accident Lawsuit, California Appellate Court Holds No Abuse of Discretion When Judge Excluded Plaintiff’s Expert Testimony, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog,  April 6, 2017

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