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Panel disagrees in admitting expert testimony

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today that a trial court didn't err in allowing into evidence an injured woman's testimony about medical tests and the cause of her pain. The judges did disagree about whether the court erred in granting the woman's motion to strike portions of the defendant's expert medical witness's testimony.

Amanda Cave was injured in a car accident when Eric Sibbing's car slammed into the back of hers as she slowed while driving. At the time of the accident, she told responders she didn't need an ambulance, but as the days went on the pain in her foot and back became worse so she sought medical treatment. She eventually visited a chiropractor and underwent a nerve conduction study.

Cave filed her negligence suit against Sibbing, who admitted fault for the crash. The trial court granted her motion to strike portions of the testimony of Sibbing's expert medical witness, Dr. Paul Kern, who said the nerve conduction study and chiropractic care were unnecessary. The jury awarded her $71,675 for damages.

On appeal in Eric P. Sibbing v. Amanda N. Cave, No. 49A02-0802-CV-165, Sibbing challenged the decision by the trial court to admit certain testimony by Cave's witnesses and to exclude portions of Kern's testimony.

The judges, citing Coffey v. Coffey, 649 N.E.2d 1074, 1078 (Ind. Ct. App. 1995), ruled the trial court didn't appear to err in admitting Cave's testimony about what her doctor had told her about diagnostic tests and the cause of her pain. Most of the information to which Cave testified was presented to the jury through other exhibits or witnesses, wrote Judge Paul Mathias.

Chief Judge John Baker dissented from Judges Mathias and Elaine Brown's ruling that the trial court didn't abuse its discretion in granting Cave's motion to strike Kern's testimony. In his dissent, the chief judge wrote he disagreed with the majority's view that the holding in Whitaker v. Kruse, 495 N.E.2d 233 (Ind. Ct. App. 1986), precludes a defendant from calling an expert witness to render an opinion as to whether all of a plaintiff's treatments were reasonable or necessary under the circumstances.

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