Memo

To: Cass County products liability attorneys in Raymore, Belton, & Harrisonville interested in admissibility of trial of lay opinion testimony

From: Matt Hamilton, Harrisonville products liability attorney for accidents & injury

Subject: Ragsdalle v. Rim-rock, — Employee is burnt by molten metal and sues claiming a defective safety guard.

Date: July 29, 2010

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Issue:

  1. May employees of the defendant corporation testify as to their opinions that the guard was unsafe when they have no training in the area and are not experts?

Conclusion:

1) Yes, non-experts can testify as to their opinions under the sound discretion of the trial court in Cass County, Harrisonville, Raymore & Belton products liability injury accident lawsuits if they are witnesses/observers to events relating to the cause of action and it is impracticable to place the facts before the jury in such a way that they can draw their own conclusion from the facts.

In any event, it is likely that the defense will succeed in suppressing the opinion testimony.

Analysis:

A. Either way, it is within the discretion of the trial court to decide whether a non-expert’s opinion testimony will be allowed.

Cass County Circuit Court injury accidents under Missouri law:

In order for a witness to give an opinion as an expert it must appear that by reason of education or specialized experience he possesses superior knowledge respecting a subject about which persons having no particular training are incapable of forming an accurate opinion or drawing correct conclusions. Shelby County R-IV School District v. Herman, 392 S.W.2d 609, 616 (Mo. 1965). The necessity for admission of opinion testimony, expert or otherwise, rests in the sound discretion of the trial court. Yocum v. Kansas City Public Service Company, 349 S.W.2d 860, 864 (Mo. 1961).This applies to all civil cases in Missouri where the issue is presented by, for example, a Lees Summit auto accident lawyer.

B. It is unlikely that the opinion testimony will be allowed if the opinion is one that the lay jurors could make themselves when looking at the facts.

If the subject is one of everyday experience, where jurors are competent to decide the issues, then opinion testimony is properly rejected.” Wessar v. John Chesik Motors, Inc., 623 S.W.2d 599, 600 (Mo.App. W.D. 1981).This means, for example if a Harrisonville personal injury attorney in a products liability lawsuit attempts to get opinion testimony in where the jurors can make their own decision as it’s in the common experience of people, the opinion testimony will not be let into evidence by the Cass County Circuit Court Judge.

Expert opinion should not be admitted unless it is clear that jurors themselves lack experience or knowledge of the subject and are incapable of drawing correct conclusions from the facts proved.”1 State v. Cummings, 714 S.W.2d 877 (Mo.App. 1986).

The court in this Harrisonville products liability personal injury lawsuit was as well qualified as the witness to evaluate the state of the evidence. The witnesses were unqualified to give authoritative opinions. Their testimony was properly confined to that which related to their observations of the occurrence. Scott v. Scott, 612 S.W.2d 61, 63 (Mo.App. W.D. 1981).

The Lees Summit products liability attorney‘s witness had expertise in one area but no expertise in a closely related area. The court allowed him to give an opinion in his area of expertise but refused to allow him to give an opinion outside of his area of expertise without further qualifications. State v. Williams, 654 S.W.2d 292, 293 (Mo.App. 1983).

If the area is one in which lay Cass County jurors are likely to be conversant, or the issue is one of everyday human experience, then it is proper to reject opinion testimony on the subject. State v. Jordan, 751 S.W.2d 68, 78 (Mo.App. 1988).

Where a witness in Cass County Circuit Court expresses an opinion that is not acquired in anticipation of litigation, and the witness is not retained to testify to that opinion, it is error not to let the witness testify only because he expressed an opinion during his testimony. Krug v. United Disposal, Inc., 567 S.W.2d 133, 135-36 (Mo.App. 1978).

C. The employees can testify as to their personal observations and the Cass County Circuit Court can allow them to give an incidental opinion. The personal injury plaintiff could argue that the opinions were Jack Danison’s and John Pierson’s own observations as to the condition of the guard before the accident. The defendant can argue that neither of them are experts and can only state what they observed and not conclusions from those observations.

Observations of fact by a witness through their own experience do not constitute opinion testimony or improper expert testimony. State v. Simpson, 793 S.W.2d 182, 186 (Mo.App. 1990).

Owners and employees of a construction company who participated in construction work that gave rise to a Belton auto accident lawyers’ cause of action were not “expert witnesses,” and their testimony was therefore admissible even though they were not disclosed as expert witnesses in response to interrogatories. This was because the witnesses were observers and participants in the events and transactions of the case. The court stated that if some of their testimony incidentally called on their learning and experience for conclusions and opinions, the witnesses were still not “expert witnesses” within the meaning of Rule 56.01(b)(4). Owen v. City of Springfield, 741 S.W.2d 16 (Mo. 1987).

1Note that this is a criminal case.

Products Liability