Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Objection to IME Doctor's Reliance Upon Vehicle Damage Photos in Opinion Overruled

In his recent Opinion in the case of Rodriguez v. Broad, No. 7250-CV-2012 (C.P. Monroe Co. Feb. 5, 2016 Zulick, J.), Judge Arthur L. Zulick of the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas denied a Plaintiff’s Motion In Limine seeking to preclude the testimony of the Defendant’s independent medical examination (IME) expert.  

According to the Opinion, the IME doctor issued a report indicating that he performed a history and physical examination of the Plaintiff and reviewed her medical records, radiographic studies, and photographs of the damages to the vehicles in rendering his opinion.  

The Plaintiff filed a Motion In Limine complaining that the IME doctor’s conclusions that the alleged injuries of the Plaintiff could not have been caused by the “minor trauma” of the motor vehicle collision was improperly based upon the expert’s review of photographs of vehicles after the collision.   The Plaintiff contended that the IME doctor was not an expert in the forces involved in vehicular crashes and that jurors should be able to make their own conclusions about damage to the vehicles as laypersons.   The Plaintiff contended that the IME doctor’s testimony should not be admissible as a result.  

Judge Zulick pointed out that the Plaintiff did not challenge the IME doctor’s qualifications as an expert orthopedic surgeon.  

The defense argued that the IME doctor properly considered the extent of damages to the vehicle as an aspect of his review of the Plaintiff’s complaints of orthopedic injuries in conjunction with taking the Plaintiff’s history, conducting a physical examination, and reviewing medical records and radiological studies.

Relying upon Pa. R.E. 703, which pertains to “Bases of Expert’s Opinion Testimony,” Judge Zulick denied the Plaintiff’s Motion and noted that the IME doctor’s use of photos of the vehicles is “one pillar of support of his opinion.”    Judge Zulick also noted that the IME doctor’s consideration of the photographs would be subject to cross-examination.   He additionally stated that the jury would be able to consider the damage to the vehicles themselves and use their own judgment as to whether or not they agreed with the IME doctor’s analysis as well.  

Overall, the court found that the Plaintiff’s objections to the IME doctor’s testimony went to the weight or value of the evidence, and not its admissibility.  Accordingly, these objections were denied.  

Judge Arthur L. Zulick
Monroe County
Judge Zulick also addressed the Plaintiff’s objections that the IME doctor’s opinion were not definite.   The court noted that the IME doctor did state, at the conclusion of his report, that all his opinions were rendered within a reasonable degree of medical certainty.  

In this regard, Judge Zulick also pointed to the well-settled rule that an IME doctor, as an expert for the defense “does not have to give his opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty on question where the Plaintiff has the burden of proof.”   See Op. at 5 [numerous citations omitted].  

Based on the above reasoning, the court denied the Plaintiff’s Motion In Limine asserted against the IME doctor.  

Anyone desiring a copy of this decision by Judge Zulick in the case of Rodriguez may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.
I send thanks to Attorney G. Christopher Parrish of the Bethlehem, PA office of Forry Ullman for bringing this case to my attention.

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