Section 90.402, Florida Statutes, provides that all relevant evidence is admissible, unless otherwise provided by law. Relevant evidence is not admissible, however, if the risk of unfair prejudice, confusion, misleading the jury, or the unnecessary presentation of cumulative evidence substantially outweighs the probative value. § 90.403, Florida Statutes. Case law has held that if relevant evidence is not unfairly prejudicial, the trial court cannot exclude it.
The First District recently addressed a trial court’s exclusion of one party’s expert testimony, while allowing the other party’s expert testimony. Taylor v. Culver arose from a low-impact automobile accident. A biomedical engineering expert was allowed to testify for one party, but the trial court excluded the testimony of the other party’s biomedical engineering expert. The party appealed, arguing the court erred in excluding his expert’s testimony.
The appeals court noted that the trial court’s discretion in admitting or excluding evidence is limited by the evidence code and case law. The appeals court looked to its decision in Council v. State. Council was a criminal child abuse case in which the defendant sought to introduce testimony by a biomechanics expert that the child’s injuries could have been caused by a fall. In that case, the court noted that a biomechanics expert is not qualified to testify as to the extent of an injury, but the expert is qualified to give an opinion regarding causation within the field of biomechanics. The expert’s opinion was that the child could have sustained the injuries by falling from a day bed and that the child’s injuries could not have been caused by shaking alone. The court found that the expert’s opinions were within the field of biomechanics, and the expert was therefore qualified to testify to them. Furthermore, the Council court found that the testimony was relevant to establish the defendant’s theory of accidental injury by rebutting the state’s testimony that the injuries were consistent only with non-accidental trauma. The appeals court found that the trial court had erred in excluding the expert’s testimony.
Finding that Council controlled, the Taylor court found that Council supported a finding that the expert testimony was relevant to disputed issues involving the velocity and direction of forces in the accident. The testimony was therefore relevant to the causation of the collision. The appeals court found the exclusion of the expert testimony to be a clear abuse of discretion. The appeals court reversed the judgment and remanded the case for a new trial.
Expert testimony can be incredibly important in personal injury cases. Expert testimony may be needed to show causation, as in Taylor. Medical experts are often needed to prove the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries. If you have been injured in an automobile accident, you need an experienced Florida automobile accident attorney who understands the Florida rules of evidence. The attorneys at Anidjar & Levine can fight for you. Call us at (800) 747-3733, or submit an online contact form.
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