Yesterday, the California Court of Appeal released an opinion (O’Brien v. Razouk) that affirmed a defense verdict for a case involving a motor vehicle accident. The plaintiff has appealed to the higher court for two main reasons. First, they contended that the trial court incorrectly allowed expert testimony by the defendant’s accident reconstruction expert into evidence. Secondly, since both parties medical testimony established that O’Brien was injured in the automobile collision the jury’s defense verdict was not supported by substantial evidence.
The court found that the expert testimony of the accident reconstruction expert was not governed by the scientific community acceptance test, which is better known within the legal community as the Kelly Test, aptly named after the case that created the standard, People v. Kelly. But why is this important?
As a result of this ruling, the court allowed the defendant’s expert to testify about the force of impact of the motor vehicle accident by relying on merely photographs, police reports, medical records, deposition testimony, and several other factors. Thus the expert was allowed to testify at trial that the force of impact was analogous to a car striking a curb at two to three MPH. This testimony was not favorable to the plaintiff and likely contributed to the defense verdict. To make matters worse, the jury disregarded the testimony of not only the plaintiff’s expert doctor, but also the defendant’s expert doctor, both of whom testified that the defendant’s negligence caused injury to the plaintiff.
These two facts combined with the plaintiff’s preexisting medical conditions ultimately lead the jury to believe that despite the defendant’s negligence, the defendant was not a substantial factor in causing injury to the plaintiff and awarded no damages to the plaintiff.
The Risk of Trial
This case highlights the risk that all parties share when taking their cases to trial. No one exactly knows how a jury will react to the evidence presented at trial. There are thousands of different contributing factors that ultimately lead to the result in O’Brien v. Razouk. Despite this unfavorable result for the plaintiff in O’Brien, it serves as a valuable reminder for people when assessing the risk/benefit of trial.
Thank you for reading Slice of PI today and we hope you continue to read and share our blog with others. We hope you have a great St. Patrick’s Day weekend! Erin Go Bragh!