Expert Testimony -- 2017



O'Banion v. Ford Motor Co.   (Indiana Supreme Court)

Expert witness standard in Indiana

The NAM and coalition associations filed an amicus brief in support of Ford Motor Company. The issue is whether Indiana Rule of Evidence 702 treats testimony from engineers as “scientific testimony.” That rule applies different standards to expert “scientific” testimony as opposed to testimony based on “technical” or “other specialized knowledge.” If testimony is deemed “scientific,” the testimony may only be admitted if it “rests upon reliable scientific principles.” If the testimony is not scientific, it must be admitted if it may “help the trier of fact understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.” Indiana courts have ruled on either side of this issue.

The NAM’s argued (1) the court of appeals’ decision to subject engineering experts to less scrutiny than “scientific” experts departs from the well-reasoned practice of the vast majority of states across the country, (2) as “gatekeepers”, courts must scrutinize expert engineering testimony to ensure it is valid, well founded testimony that may be fairly relied upon by lay jurors in reaching a verdict, and (3) that the court of appeals’ failure to test the reliability of engineers has significant adverse economic implications for Indiana’s business climate.

The court denied the NAM’s and Ford’s argument that the experts in question should be excluded because their testimony was “scientific” and was not rooted in reliable principles. Specifically, the court disagreed with the contention that the lower court had misapplied Rule 702 when it determined that the testimony offered by engineers was allowable and rested upon reliable “engineering” principles. The court dismissed Ford’s motion to exclude the engineer’s expert testimony stating that just because an expert’s opinion may not be accepted by a fact finder does not provide a basis for rendering it inadmissible.

The case was later settled with Ford assuming no responsibility or liability.


Related Documents:
NAM brief  (October 9, 2015)

 


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