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Expert Testimony that Contradicts the Plaintiff is Admissible

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"A party is not precluded from proving his case by any relevant evidence, even though that evidence may contradict the testimony of a witness previously called by him.”

The Sixth US Circuit ruled that expert testimony is relevant to a case even if it doesn't match the plaintiff's testimony exactly. Central to the decision was whether the expert's testimony “fit” the facts of testimony presented by the plaintiff under the Rules of Evidence 702.

In Mark D. Lee v. Smith & Wesson Corp., a products liability case, Lee was injured by a misfiring Smith & Wesson 460XVR revolver. The blast caused injury to his nose, eye and face. Smith & Wesson contested that the product was defectively designed and manufactured, instead arguing that a heavy recoil caused the injuries.

The court addressed the discrepancies in the testimony offered by the mechanical engineer and the plaintiff. Lee recalled the weapon firing strangely, but believed the cylinder was closed when the gun fired. The plaintiff's mechanical engineer, however, testified that because the cylinder did not fully close and lock, it expelled gas resulting in Lee’s injuries.

Testimony didn't match

At issue was whether the expert's testimony must match exactly the facts provided by the plaintiff, in order to be admissible. The Sixth Circuit said, “[t]he rule in Ohio, as well as in federal practice, is that a party is not precluded from proving his case by any relevant evidence, even though that evidence may contradict the testimony of a witness previously called by him.”

Ordinarily, if the evidence pertains to the central issue of the case, the evidence is admissible. The court felt the engineer used reliable methods, gave fact-based opinions and possessed the proper qualifications, thus enhancing the admissibility of the testimony.  The court cited a previous Sixth Circuit decision Greenwell v. Boatwright, where the court also upheld the use expert testimony stating, "expert testimony is not inadmissible simply because it contradicts eyewitness testimony." 184 F.3d 492, 497 (6th Cir. 1999).

To this point, the court highlighted that the defendant offered the jury no other possible alternative nor did it challenge the physical evidence on which the engineer based his testimony. In the court's view, this allowed the jury hearing the evidence to decide whether Lee's testimony was error.

Plaintiff-Appellant was represented by Brittany L. Lee of New Orleans, LA. The case discussed is Mark D. Lee v. Smith & Wesson Corp. No. 13-3597 (6th Cir. July 29, 2014). 

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