Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Expert Reports May Not Be Required of Plaintiffs In Cases Where Causation is Obvious

In some personal injury cases, the relationship of a plaintiff's injury to an alleged act may be so obvious that expert testimony on causation may not be necessary.  

Such was the case in the matter of Schweikert v. Eagle, No. 20-4310 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 9, 2022 Goldberg, J.), in which the court denied a Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment in a motor vehicle accident versus pedestrian case.  The Defendant filed the Motion on the basis that the Plaintiff had not produced an expert report on causation.

According to the Opinion, the pedestrian Plaintiff was allegedly struck by the Defendant's vehicle while the Plaintiff was in a crosswalk at 30th and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia.  There was no dispute that the Defendant's vehicle struck the Plaintiff.

The Plaintiff was immediately transported to the emergency room where she was treated for complaints of back pain and a fracture to her wrist.  The Plaintiff then went on to continue to treat with various medical providers for complaints of neck pain, back pain and wrist pain and residual limitations.

According to the Opinion, the Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment after the Plaintiff failed to produce an expert report within the Court's deadline.    

In this regard, the court ruled that, while a plaintiff is required in most cases to produce an expert report to prove causation, expert testimony on causation is not always required in personal injury actions.  Rather, under an exception to the general rule, where there is an obvious causal connection between the injury and the alleged negligent act, expert testimony may prove unnecessary.

Here, the Plaintiff alleged physical injuries as a result of being struck the Defendant’s vehicle. The court noted that there was evidence of an obvious causal relationship between the injury and the alleged negligent act.

More specifically, the Plaintiff’s alleged injuries were immediate, the Plaintiff was taken to the hospital complaining of pain, and the injuries sustained were the type that were the natural results of being hit by a vehicle.

The court otherwise noted that the issue of whether the obvious causal connection extended to the Plaintiff’s claim of spinal injuries was a disputed issue of fact to be left to the jury.

With regards to the Plaintiff’s failure to produce an expert report, the court noted that, although the expert report deadline had passed, the Plaintiff could rely upon the testimony of her treating physicians as lay witnesses. The court noted that the Plaintiff had not missed any deadline for describing the substance of such testimony by her treating physicians. The court additionally noted in this federal court case that the Defendants had the opportunity to depose the treating doctors prior to trial as well.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision denying the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment may click this LINK.  The Court's companion Order can be read HERE.

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck from the Philadelphia office of the Reed Smith law firm for bringing this case to my attention.

Source of image:  Photo by Cody Iannom on www.unsplash.com.

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