Connecticut Appellate Court Confirms that Fact Finding Function of Court can Accept or Reject All or Part of an Expert's Testimony
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In Hosein v. Edman et al., 175 Conn. App. 13 (2017), the Connecticut Appellate Court affirmed that a trial court judge can effectively weigh the expert testimony of a witness on speculation and credibility to the point of deciding the entire testimony is without merit. The plaintiff sued the CT Department of Transportation for negligence caused by one of its employees arising out of a motor vehicle accident. The plaintiff alleged that the state employee pulled his car onto the roadway from a parked position after he put out construction signs. The defense alleged that the plaintiff hit the DOT vehicle while it was completely stationary and, therefore, the plaintiff was fully at fault for the causing the accident. The plaintiff disclosed an accident reconstructionist expert to support her claim that the state employee pulled into her lane of traffic causing the accident. Over many objections by the defense that the testimony was purely speculative, the trial court allowed the accident reconstructionist expert to testify as to his entire opinion. Ultimately, the trial court, in its decision, found the expert’s opinion was total conjecture and determined that the expert testimony wasn’t even needed to assist the court in helping it determine the liability question. The lower court found in favor of the DOT. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the court erred in listening to the entire testimony of the expert, over the defendant’s objections, but that deciding that none of the testimony was useful amounted to precluding the expert testimony. Instead, the plaintiff claimed the trial court should have held a pre-trial Porter hearing to determine if the expert passed muster on credibility of his scientific methods and conclusions which would determine if his testimony should be considered. If the plaintiff succeeded in such a pre-trial hearing, then, the plaintiff argued, the court could not reject all of the expert’s testimony. The Appellate Court rejected this based on the traditional concept that the fact-finding function of the court is to give the appropriate weight to evidence it hears, including expert testimony credibility. Courts are free to accept or reject in whole or in part, the testimony of expert witnesses after the testimony has been admitted into the record.
If you have any questions about whether your expert’s opinions will be accepted or rejected by a court, please contact the litigation attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C.
Source: Hosein v. Edman et. al., 175 Conn. App. 13 (2017).
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