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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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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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