Justices rule on admitting testimony in crash cases

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Supreme Court released companion cases Tuesday on the issue of admitting certain expert testimony under Indiana Rule of Evidence 702 in two separate car accident cases.

Justice Frank Sullivan authored the opinions in Henry C. Bennett and Schupan & Sons, Inc. v. John Richmond and Jennifer Richmond, No. 20S03-1105-CV-293; and Reginald N. Person, Jr. v. Carol A. Shipley, No. 20S03-1110-CT-609, in which the justices found neither trial court abused its discretion in admitting the testimony in question.

In Bennett, John and Jennifer Richmond sued Henry Bennett and his employer after Bennett rear-ended John Richmond’s van with his company roll-off container truck. At issue in the case is whether the testimony of psychologist Dr. Sheridan McCabe – who determined that John Richmond had experienced a traumatic brain injury in the accident – should be admitted. The trial court allowed it; but the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed.

Sullivan noted the split in other jurisdictions as to whether psychologists may testify as to the cause of a brain injury. The justices looked at McCabe’s qualifications and testimony and found the testimony was allowed under Rule 702.  Sullivan pointed out that other courts have not required specific qualifications in determining the etiology of brain injuries before allowing psychologists or neuropsychologists to testify in this regard.

“Our review of the record, read in conjunction with the requirements of Rule 702, leads us to conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting Dr. McCabe’s causation testimony. The trial court extensively and thoughtfully considered the admissibility of Dr. McCabe’s testimony on three separate occasions during this litigation. Mindful that the trial court is afforded broad discretion in these matters, we decline to find any abuse of it,” he wrote in Bennett.

A similar issue arose in Person, except the expert testimony at issue was that of Dr. Charles Turner, who has a background in engineering and biomechanics. Turner testified on behalf of Carol Shipley – whose vehicle rear-ended Reginald Person’s tractor-trailer when she fell asleep at the wheel – that Person’s lower-back injuries were unlikely caused by the accident based on the speed or velocity of the accident.

Person objected to the admittance of Turner’s testimony, but the trial court allowed it and the jury returned a defense verdict in favor of Shipley. Again looking at Rule 702 and the qualifications and testimony of Turner, the justices found the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in admitting Turner’s testimony.

“Although we find it unnecessary in this case to expound upon Dr. Turner’s qualifications to offer an opinion on medical causation, we note here as we noted in Bennett that neither the criteria for qualifying under Rule 702 (knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education) nor the purpose for which expert testimony is admitted (to assist the trier of fact) seems to support disallowing an otherwise qualified expert to offer an opinion regarding medical causation simply because he or she lacks a medical degree,” wrote Sullivan in Person.



Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.