SW Legal studies in Business

Things within Common Knowledge of Jurors Do Not Require Expert Testimony
Description

Utah high court held that things that are within the common knowledge of jurors do not need expert testimony to be proven at trial. While technical matters require such testimony, less sophisticated matters do not.

Topic Court Procedure
Key Words

Summary Judgment; Wrongful Death; Expert Testimony; Proximate Cause

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Ann Menlove was being treated by Dr. Kalm, a psychiatrist, for anorexia, depression, and anxiety. During her treatment, Kalm prescribed sleeping pills. She filled the prescription of 30 pills, to be taken one per night, and apparently took 12 or 13 of the pills. She was found dead, pinned under a bedroom dresser that had fallen on top of her, probably because she pulled on it in a sleepy stupor. Her husband sued Kalm for malpractice, contending that he should have know Ann Menlove was likely to overdose herself and was clumsy when under medication. No expert testimony was provided on the issue of whether Kalm’s alleged malpractice was the proximate cause of death. The district court granted summary judgment for Kalm. Menlove appealed.

Decision

Reversed and remanded. For summary judgment to be appropriate, there must be no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party must be entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Menlove was not required to present expert testimony to establish whether Kalm’s alleged breach of the standard of care was the proximate cause of death. Expert testimony as to cause of death in such cases is usually needed because the cause is not within the common knowledge of the lay juror. But things within the common knowledge of jurors may excuse a lack of expert testimony. Jurors could consider whether Kalm breached his duty of care by prescribing sleeping pills for Menlove, so expert testimony is not required for proximate cause to be established in this case.

Citation

Bowman v. Kalm, 179 P.3d 754 (Sup. Ct., Utah, 2008)

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