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Justices rule on admitting testimony in crash cases

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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.

 

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

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  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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