Thursday, August 25, 2011

Federal Middle District Judge Denies Efforts to Secure Expert's Annual Income at Trial Deposition

In the Federal Middle District Court case of Young v. Pleasant Valley School District, PICS No. 11-3953(M.D.Pa. 2011, Kane, J.), Judge Yvette Kane denied a plaintiff's motion to compel a defense expert to provide more detailed information on his general income from expert services in the year leading up to the incident in a case where the expert had already disclosed the fees he was earning in this case as well as in cases he had testified in since 2003.  

The Young case involved a civil rights claim by a student against a high school teacher.  The defense retained an expert in the educational field to address the claims presented.  The issue at hand arose when the expert refused to answer the plaintiff's attorney's question during a trial deposition that inquired as to the amount of income the expert had earned in the past year as an expert.

In denying the plaintiff's motion to compel an answer to this question, the court emphasized that the expert testified that 50 percent of his testimony was provided for the plaintiff's side and 50 percent was provided for the defense side.  As such, it appeared to the Judge that the expert did not have any financial incentive to show bias towards any plaintiff or defendant in light of the fact that he relied upon both sides equally for his income.

In light of the expert's testimony, and given the previous disclosures by the expert on his income as an expert, the court did not believe that the plaintiff had shown that an answer to the question would show bias on the part of the expert and the court was convinced that the additional information sought by the plaintiff was "overkill" and "needlessly intrusive" of the expert's privacy.  Accordingly, the plaintiff's motion to compel a response from the expert was denied.

Anyone desiring a copy of this case may call the Pennsylvania Instant Case Service offered by the Pennsylvania Law Weekly (800-276-PICS) to order a copy at a small fee.

Source:  Article entitled "Judge Refuses to Reveal Expert Witness' Annual Income" by Shannon P. Duffy in the August 24, 2011 edition of The Legal Intelligencer.

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