By Senior Status Judge Stan Billingsley
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Some errors at trial seem to keep happening year after year. We continuously see instances when parties, usually plaintiff’s lawyers, don’t follow the correct steps to permit them to call an expert witness. A recent example is Turner v. Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc. (No. 2004-CA-000977-MR (Ky.App. 05/27/2005)) in which the court held that a failure to qualify one’s expert witness in a medical malpractice case justifies summary judgment against the plaintiff. Obviously, errors like this can result in a malpractice claim.
The Standard for Qualifying An Expert Witness
KRE 702 authorizes the introduction of expert opinion testimony when:
Note that in Kentucky not all cases require an expert. For example, if the conduct of a defendant physician is within the realm of knowledge of a juror such as when the doctor operates on the wrong leg an expert is not required. These exceptions are rare however.
The Two Most Common Mistakes In Qualifying An Expert
You should always be sure that your expert can meet a reasonable evaluation by the trial judge as to his qualifications and you should disclose the name of the expert as required by the trial order in a timely manner. We suggest the best practice for assuring that you have an expert who can be qualified is to select someone in the same subject matter type of practice or job, with years of experience, and the ability to support his position. A good rule is to hire the expert and question him prior to filing the lawsuit. Then seek a ruling by the court well in advance of the trial that the expert is qualified.