Expert testimony can be helpful in certain claims to explain evidence to the fact finder. In Maryland accident cases, expert testimony may be admitted if the court decides that the testimony will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or decide a fact at issue. Yet, expert testimony is required only if the issue is beyond the knowledge of a layperson. Expert testimony is not required “on matters of which the jurors would be aware by virtue of common knowledge.” A recent decision from a state supreme court is an example of a case in which the court found expert testimony was not required.
In that case, a child was allegedly assaulted on the playground during recess at her elementary school. The student and her mother filed a claim against the city and the Board of Education alleging negligence. The trial court found in favor of the plaintiffs, holding that the school provided inadequate supervision at the time. The trial court found there were 3 or 4 staff members and 1 student intern, which was insufficient to supervise over as many as 400 students. An appellate court reversed the decision, stating that the court should not have found the defendants breached their duty without expert testimony on the issue.
However, the state’s supreme court reversed again. The court held that expert testimony was not necessary in that case. The court explained that expert testimony is required generally in cases amounting to professional malpractice. Expert testimony is not required in cases where the negligence is so extreme that it is clear to a layperson and it is not required where the alleged error is within the common knowledge of a layperson.