In courtroom dramas on television, it is common to see a party keep a witness in their back pocket, only to present the witness to testify on the day of trial. However, in real Maryland personal injury cases, this sort of “trial by ambush” is not permitted under the state’s evidentiary rules. In fact, under Maryland Rule 2-402(g)(1)(A), a party must generally make their expert witnesses available for deposition or interrogatory in advance of trial.
In a recent case, a state appellate court affirmed this long-held prohibition against trials by ambush when it precluded a plaintiff’s expert witness from testifying regarding an opinion he formed only on the day of trial. According to the court’s opinion, the case involved a 2014 car accident between the plaintiff and the defendant. The defendant acknowledged that he was at fault for causing the accident, and the only issue at trial was the appropriate amount of damages.
Evidently, the plaintiff suffered a pre-existing injury in 2010. In pre-trial discovery, it was clear that the plaintiff’s expert medical witness reviewed the plaintiff’s MRI from 2014, but not from 2010. The defendant’s expert, however, examined both the 2010 and 2014 MRIs. During opening statements, the defendant argued that the plaintiff’s expert did not have all the information necessary to back his conclusion regarding the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries.
Then, for the first time, the plaintiff’s expert disclosed that he had reviewed the 2010 MRI and adjusted his opinion to take it into account. The defense objected, arguing that the expert must have only been shown the MRI that day, and that the expert should not be allowed to modify his opinion or add to it based on a late review of the 2014 MRI. The trial judge initially prohibited the plaintiff’s expert from testifying regarding the 2014 MRI, but soon after reversed that decision. The court determined that the defendant was afforded ample opportunity to cross-examine the witness, and the late-review of the evidence could be factored into the weight the jury gave to the witness’ testimony. The defendant appealed.
On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s decision. The court explained that the plaintiff’s tactics constituted trial by ambush. The court likened the situation to one where a witness’ name was not disclosed until the day of trial, noting that the court should consider the potential prejudice such a maneuver caused to the opposing side. Here, the court explained that the plaintiff’s request to allow the expert to testify regarding the 2010 MRI was prejudicial to the defense because it cut at the heart of the defense.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we represent Maryland car accident victims in all types of claims against negligent drivers and their insurance companies. We also represent our clients in claims against their own insurance companies, when the at-fault drivers do not have sufficient insurance to cover our clients’ injuries. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation today, call 410-654-3600. You can also contact us online.