Personal Injury Plaintiffs Lose on Appeal Due to Inadmissible Expert Testimony

Earlier this year, the Virginia Supreme Court heard a case involving a man who was seriously injured after the Hyundai he was driving left the roadway, slammed into several snow banks, and then struck a large tree. Although the car was equipped with a side airbag, the airbag did not deploy during the accident.

The family of the accident victim brought a suit against Hyundai, alleging that there was a breach in the “implied warranty of merchantability,” essentially claiming that the Hyundai “was defective, unreasonably dangerous, was not fit for the ordinary purpose for which it was intended, and did not pass without objection in the industry in which it was sold.” The essences of their claim was that, had the side airbag deployed, as it should have, the injuries sustained by their loved one would have been greatly reduced.

To support  their theory, the plaintiffs called an expert at trial to testify that, had the airbag been properly designed, it would have gone off and that would have decreased any injury sustained as a result of the accident. His main argument was that it was not located in the right part of the vehicle.

An interesting part of the expert’s testimony was that he noted that Hyundai was not required by law to put in side airbags into their 2008 vehicles. However, the expert claimed that by installing an airbag, it should at least be a working airbag. In other words, it isn’t fair to market a car with side airbags and then have the airbags not do their job.

The trial court determined that the expert’s testimony was valid for the proposition that the airbag was not put in the proper location in the vehicle, and that issue went to the defendant car manufacturer’s negligence. However, Hyundai immediately appealed to a higher court.

The Case Is Reversed on Appeal

The Virginia Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s holding, explaining that the expert’s testimony was not admissible in the trial and, since his testimony was critical to the plaintiff’s theory, the case must be reversed.

The higher court found that the expert’s testimony was not based on scientific fact, and instead it was based on the assumption that the airbag would have deployed had it been placed elsewhere in the vehicle. The court noted that the expert didn’t rely on any tests or other empirical data when making his assertion, thus making it an opinion unsupported by fact.

Expert Testimony Can Be Crucial in Personal Injury Cases

As evident in the above-described case, expert testimony can be the crux of a plaintiff’s personal injury case much of the time. This is often the case when the alleged negligent act of the defendant (in this case, the placement of the airbags) is beyond the understanding of the general public. Having a qualified and understandable expert is critical to a personal injury plaintiff’s case in these situations.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been involved in a Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Keep in mind, however, that your case may require the use of an expert witness to describe to the jury how, exactly, the defendant was negligent. In such cases, the selection of the expert can be critical to the success of your case. To consult with a dedicated attorney about your case, call 410-654-3600 to set up a free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Sport Utility Vehicle Crashes into High-School Cafeteria, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published December 2, 2014.

Uninsured Driver Convicted for Maryland Girl’s Death, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published January 19, 2014.

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