South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Expert Testimony by Qualified Expert May Conflict with Other Testimony
Description Appeals court held that a qualified expert witness may give testimony that conflicts with other expert testimony, so long as the testimony is within the area of qualified expertise. The fact that experts disagree is not a reason to exclude testimony.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Evidence; Expert Testimony; Admissibility
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Smith sustained severe injuries in a car accident when driving her 1994 BMW. She sued BMW, contending that the air bag in the car was faulty and that if it had worked properly it would have reduced the severity of her injuries. One of her expert witnesses (Erickson) testified that based on his observations and experience, proper deployment of the airbag would have prevented or reduced her injuries. The trial judge struck the testimony, which resulted in the case being dismissed for lack of evidence. Smith appealed.
Decision

Reversed. The district court abused its discretion in excluding the testimony. "The fact that experts in other fields might also be able to form opinions regarding the cause of Smith's neck injury and would base those opinions on factors other than those used by Dr. Erickson does not disqualify Dr. Erickson from offering testimony that would be helpful to the jury." Erickson was qualified, as a forensic pathologist, to testify as to the reasons for his conclusions about how Smith's injuries were sustained. He did not testify on matters outside his area of expertise.

Citation Smith v. BMW  North America, Inc., 308 F.3d 913 (8th Cir., 2002)

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