SW Legal studies in Business

Economist Had No Expertise To Testify About Physical Capacity to Work
Description South Dakota high court held that the expert testimony of an economist, hired by the plaintiff to assess his reduction in lifetime earnings due to injuries suffered in an accident, should not have been admitted into evidence since the economist made judgments about physical work capacity that were beyond his expertise.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Evidence; Expert Testimony
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Garland, a high school senior, and Rossknecht collided at an intersection. Garland's chiropractor treated him for over a year and determined that he "suffered from a seven percent whole person permanent impairment" that would restrict his ability to sit for long periods or to lift his arms over his head. Garland sued Rossknecht for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and diminished earnings capacity. Besides the testimony of the chiropractor, an economist testified about Garland's reduced earning capacity in his chosen field of graphic design, which he was then studying. He estimated that Garland's earnings would be reduced by ten percent due to the impairment described by the chiropractor. The jury awarded Garland $50,000. Rossknecht appealed.
Decision Remanded for new trial. The opinion of an economist in assigning a disability rating to Garland was not admissible evidence. He had no expertise in assessing vocational disabilities and his assessment was based on Garland's statements to him about his appraisal of this work capacity. Experts are limited to offering opinions within their expertise.
Citation Garland v. Rossknecht, 624 N.W.2d 700 (Sup. Ct., S.D., 2001)

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