In many Washington, D.C. personal injury cases, the issues raised in the case are within the common understanding of jurors and the jurors are able to resolve the issues on their own. However, in more complex cases, or those that raise issues involving professional standards of care that may be beyond the scope of jurors’ common understanding, the plaintiff may need to present an expert witness in order to effectively explain certain issues.
Expert witnesses are most common in Washington, D.C. medical malpractice cases, but they are also used in other types of negligence cases. Federal Rule of Evidence 702 explains that a person may be considered an expert if they possess “knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education.” Once an expert is qualified, they are able to present opinion testimony if certain additional facts are met.
Expert witness testimony is critical in some Washington, D.C. personal injury cases, especially those involving issues that are unfamiliar to the jurors or in situations where the opposing party is presenting expert testimony. A recent case illustrates the importance of expert witness testimony.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was injured during a yoga class when the instructor made several adjustments to the plaintiff’s pose throughout the class. At the time, the plaintiff experienced pain when the instructor would adjust her position, but did not say anything to him or ask him to stop. Later, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit, claiming that the adjustments made by the instructor caused her serious injury.
The yoga studio presented the testimony of two expert witnesses. First, an orthopedic surgeon testified that, in his opinion, the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by degenerative disc disease and not by the adjustments made during the yoga class. The second expert, a psychotherapist and yoga instructor, testified that it is common for a yoga instructor to make adjustments to students’ poses during a yoga class, and that the adjustments made by the instructor in this case were within the standard of care for a yoga instructor.
The plaintiff did not present any expert testimony of her own, but claimed that the defendants’ expert testimony was “inherently unbelievable.”
The court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding that the plaintiff had not established that the defendants breached a standard of care that was owed to the plaintiff. The court explained that this situation was one where the benefit of expert testimony was necessary, because jurors were not familiar with the professional duties and obligations of yoga instructors. Additionally, the defense presented relevant expert testimony claiming that the defendants did not breach a duty. Thus, the plaintiff should have presented expert testimony to support her position. Because she did not, the court held that she would be unable to prove the necessary elements of her claim and dismissed the case.
Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Washington, D.C. accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience representing injury victims and their families in all types of personal injury matters in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
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