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Admittance of psychologist's testimony requires new trial

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ordered a new trial in a negligence suit due to a car accident after finding the trial court shouldn’t have allowed a psychologist to testify the plaintiff got a brain injury as a result of the accident.

In Henry C. Bennett, et al. v. John E. Richmond, et al., No. 20A03-0906-CV-285, Henry Bennett and his employer Schupan & Sons appealed the denial of their motion to correct error after a jury awarded John and Jennifer Richmond $200,000 in damages for John’s suit that Bennett’s negligence was the proximate cause of his injuries.

While acting within the scope of his employment, Bennett rear-ended John, which caused John’s neck and back injuries. He underwent treatment and then got a back injury while at work seven months later, which exacerbated the injuries he sustained in the car accident.

John underwent a neuropsychological evaluation with Dr. Sheridan McCabe, a psychologist, who testified John sustained a brain injury from the car accident. McCabe reviewed John’s medical records, his deposition in the instant litigation, interviewed John and his wife, and administered neuropsychological tests.

Bennett wanted to exclude McCabe’s testimony on the basis that he isn’t competent to testify regarding a medical diagnosis. The trial court allowed his testimony and also denied Bennett’s motion to correct error after the jury verdict in John’s favor.

The Court of Appeals reversed because McCabe isn’t a medical doctor, and the evaluation of a brain injury, while within the doctor’s field of expertise, is distinct from the determination of a medical cause of the injury. McCabe only testified that in his professional continuing education courses, he has touched on subjects relating to the evaluation of traumatic brain injuries and that he received referrals from two neurologists, wrote Judge Edward Najam.

No medical doctor or other qualified practitioner ever diagnosed John with a brain injury. The trial court abused its discretion in allowing McCabe to testify that John got the brain injury from the accident.

“The trial court should have exercised its discretion as gatekeeper prior to trial to exclude Dr. McCabe’s proffered causation testimony based upon his lack of qualifications to give such testimony,” Judge Najam wrote.

The admission of the testimony was not a harmless error. The evidence regarding the Richmonds’ damages other than the alleged brain injury isn’t sufficient to support the jury verdict.

The judges remanded for a new trial in which McCabe’s testimony is inadmissible absent testimony by a qualified expert that John suffered a brain injury in the car accident.
 

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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