Personal Injury Lawsuit Failed Due to Lack of Expert Testimony

by Mandy Hicks

The burden of proof is initially on the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit. In order to prevail, he or she must prove each of the four elements of negligence (duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages) by a preponderance of the evidence. This is usually done through a combination of expert witnesses and lay testimony.

For instance, in many car accident cases, the basic facts of the crash may be explained by lay witnesses (“I saw the blue car run the red light and hit the side of the white van”). Evidence regarding certain damages, such as injuries and the reasonableness and necessity of medical expenses, requires testimony from an expert witness such as a physician.

In the middle of these extremes are cases in which expert witness testimony would prove helpful but is not strictly required in order for a case to go forward. Sometimes, the parties disagree as to whether such testimony is an actual requirement under the circumstances, and the court must make a decision.

Facts of the Case

In the recent unreported case of Mindel v. Fluor Enterprises, Inc., the plaintiff was the ancillary executrix of the estate of a man who allegedly died as a result of long-term exposure to asbestos. Specifically, the decedent was employed in several positions by Louisville Gas & Electric between the years 1953 and 2001, and he was allegedly exposed to asbestos insulation and dust while working around turbines used in the production of electricity. He died of lung cancer soon after being diagnosed in 2009.

The executrix filed suit in 2010, alleging that the defendants had been negligent in their design and installation of the workplace components that contained asbestos. The Jefferson Circuit Court granted summary judgment to the defendants, and the executrix appealed.

Decision of the Appellate Court

The court affirmed the trial court’s entry of summary judgment, holding that the executrix’s inability to produce expert testimony as to the standard of care as it existed during the design phase of the facilities at which her husband worked doomed her case. Since there was nothing in the record to demonstrate that the defendant was aware of the dangers of asbestos when the facilities were designed, the plaintiff was not able to prove a case of negligence.

Notably, the defendant produced testimony from an engineering expert, who testified that worker safety was not the responsibility of design engineers and that there was no duty to warn of the risks of asbestos exposure prior to the time that they were published in the Material Safety Data Sheets and required to be disclosed by OSHA.

To Talk to a Lawyer About Your Case

If you have been hurt or lost a loved one because of another person’s negligence or reckless conduct, you owe it to yourself and your family to speak to an experienced injury attorney about your right to seek compensation in a court of law. An experienced attorney can find you knowledgeable experts to assist you in your case to give you the best chance possible to win in court. To schedule an appointment with an experienced Kentucky personal injury and product liability attorney, call English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley at (270) 781-6500 and ask for a free consultation. We are located in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and we represent clients throughout Kentucky and Tennessee.

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