Expert Testimony Requirements in Washington, D.C. Injury Cases

Washington, D.C. product liability cases often require expert testimony concerning the connection between the defective product and the resulting injuries. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals, the highest court for the District of Columbia, decided in 2016 that District of Columbia courts would apply the Daubert standard embodied in Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence to determine the admission of expert testimony in civil and criminal cases.

Under Rule 702, a witness is qualified as an expert if:

  1. The expert’s specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence in the case or to determine a fact in issue;
  2. The expert’s testimony is based on sufficient facts or data; the testimony is based on reliable principles and methods; and
  3. The expert has “reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.”

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals determined this rule is broad enough to permit testimony “that is the product of competing principles or methods in the same field of expertise.”

A recent case before state appellate court highlights the need for expert testimony in many product liability cases—and the need to meet court deadlines concerning expert testimony. In that case, the plaintiff filed a claim against Unilever and Walmart, alleging that he suffered a severe allergic reaction to a Unilever body lotion he had bought at Walmart. He claimed that he suffered burning, rashes, bleeding, inflammation, discoloration, sores, and scarring after he used the body lotion.

The case was first filed in November 2016. By October 2018, in response to a deadline to disclose any expert witness, the plaintiff provided the name of one expert witness and five other potential expert witnesses. He was required to make the experts available for deposition by the end of November 2018, and was granted a two-week extension. On December 12, he offered a deposition date of December 14, which defense counsel requested to postpone, because counsel was unavailable. A new date was set in January, but a few days before, the plaintiff requested an extension until April. The plaintiff stated that the expert needed additional time to review documents and prepare a report. The defendants then filed a motion to exclude all of the expert witnesses and submitted a motion for summary judgment. The trial court excluded the experts and granted the motion.

The appeals court upheld the court’s exclusion of the doctor’s expert testimony. The court reasoned that the plaintiff was given multiple extensions and had sufficient time to present an expert for deposition, but did not do so within the deadlines the court provided. Although defense counsel requested postponing the December 14 date, the record showed that the expert had not finished reviewing the evidence by then and would not have been able to provide an expert opinion at that time if it had not been postponed. Because the defense presented evidence that the lotion was not defective, and the plaintiff failed to rebut that evidence, the case was dismissed.

Contact a Washington, D.C. Injury Lawyer

If you would like to speak with a Washington, D.C. injury lawyer concerning injuries you suffered, contact the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers. Bolstered by decades of combined experience, our personal injury lawyers are familiar with the complex issues that can arise in personal injury cases, including Washington D.C. product liability cases, car accident claims, and wrongful death lawsuits. They can guide you through each step of the legal process, ranging from the initial investigation through settlement negotiations and litigation. Call them today toll-free at (800) 654-1949 or contact them online to set up a free consultation.

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