California Car Accident Plaintiff Misses Out on Opportunity to Cross-Examine Defense Medical Expert

Earlier this month, the Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District issued a written opinion in a California car accident case involving the use of a video deposition for a witness who became unavailable during the pendency of the lawsuit. The court was tasked with determining whether the plaintiff’s objection to the use of the video deposition was valid, and if so, whether the video deposition should have been excluded at trial. The court ultimately held that the defendant complied with the applicable court rules and that the video deposition was properly admitted.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in a low-speed car accident when the defendant rear-ended him on a California highway. Immediately after the collision, both drivers made their way to the road’s shoulder, where the plaintiff explained that he was not injured. However, once the vehicles were moved to a nearby parking lot, the plaintiff began to complain of severe neck pain.

The plaintiff was taken to the hospital by ambulance, and an X-ray confirmed that no bones were broken. The plaintiff sought medical treatment once, about a month after the accident. No further treatment was sought. Approximately two years later, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, seeking compensation for the injuries he sustained in the accident.

In preparation for trial, the defendant secured an expert medical witness who conducted an independent medical evaluation of the plaintiff. It was the expert’s opinion that there was no harm caused by the car accident. The trial was set to begin in November 2014, but, due to a number of requested continuances, the trial did not begin until August 2016. During that time, the defendant’s medical expert gave notice to the defendant that he was retiring and would no longer be available to testify.

The defendant arranged to have the expert testify on video so that it could be used at trial without needing the expert to be physically present. The defendant filed the appropriate notice with the court and also notified the plaintiff. The plaintiff did not respond to the defendant’s request and did not attend the video deposition. Had the plaintiff attended, he would have been able to question the expert.

The day before trial, the plaintiff filed a motion in limine to preclude the expert’s testimony. The plaintiff argued that the video deposition was created after the close of discovery. The trial court determined that the video deposition was not new material but was instead a method of preserving already existing evidence. Thus, the plaintiff’s motion was denied. The jury then returned a verdict in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed.

The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision in an unpublished opinion. The court briefly explained that the defendant complied with the necessary rules to preserve his expert’s testimony, and the plaintiff missed out on the opportunity to object or to question the witness by failing to do so in a timely manner. As a result, the jury’s verdict in favor of the defendant will stand.

Have You Been Injured in a Southern California Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Southern California car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Having a diligent attorney on your side is crucial to the success of your case. California personal injury cases must conform to strict procedural rules, or certain rights are waived. Here at Sharifi Firm, we have a deep understanding of the procedural and substantive laws that apply in California personal injury cases, and we apply our skill and knowledge to each of our clients’ cases. Call 866-422-7222 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.

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