Expert witnesses are often a critical resource in Florida personal injury lawsuits. These individuals are qualified in a particular field based on their educational and occupational experience. Some common expert witnesses include medical experts, accident reconstructionists, economists, rehabilitation experts, mental health experts, and engineers. Cases often hinge on the opinion and testimony of an expert witness. An unqualified, inept, or biased expert witness may result in disqualification or impeachment based on credibility.
Recently, a Florida appeals court issued an opinion in a defendant’s appeal of a trial court’s decision to limit their ability to cross-examine two of the plaintiff’s medical experts. The case arose when the plaintiff suffered injuries after the defendant rear-ended him at a stoplight. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant and his employer. During pretrial proceedings, the defendants stipulated to the driver’s liability and the employer’s vicarious liability. However, they asked the court to bifurcate the trial and damages phase of the trial. The trial court agreed to the bifurcation but refused to exclude evidence of the driver’s intoxication.
During the trial, the plaintiff presented several medical experts, including one that was personal friends with the plaintiff’s attorney. The defendant sought to cross-examine the expert witness on his relationship with the plaintiff’s attorney; however, the trial court limited the inquiry. The court only allowed the defendant to inquire as to the length of the friendship. Amongst other issues, the defendant argued that the limitation was inappropriate as it went to the expert’s potential bias.