Court Dismisses Accident Victim’s Case Based on Lack of Expert Witness Testimony

Earlier this month, an appellate court affirmed the dismissal of a case brought by two accident victims based on the fact that they did not raise an “issue of fact” as it pertained to proximate cause. The court determined that the plaintiffs failed to show that there was sufficient evidence that the defendant’s negligent acts were the cause-in-fact of their injuries.

The Facts of the Case

In the case, Piltch v. Ford Motor Company, the Piltches were seriously injured when their 2006 Mercury Mountaineer hit a patch of black ice, slid off the road, and crashed into a nearby wall. None of the cars’ airbags deployed during the accident. The Piltches filed suit against the manufacturer of the vehicle, claiming that under state law the vehicle was defective. They argued that they should be compensated for their injuries because the fact that the airbags did not deploy resulted in them sustaining more serious injuries than they would have had the airbags worked properly.

However, at trial the Piltches failed to present any “causation” evidence from an expert, meaning that they were relying solely on circumstantial evidence that the fact that the airbags didn’t deploy worsened their injuries.

Ford Motor Company asked the court to dismiss the case based on the plaintiffs’ failure to prove that its negligence (designing faulty airbags) actually did worsen the plaintiffs’ injuries. In essence, Ford was claiming that the court should not infer the plaintiffs’ injuries were made worse without presenting any competent evidence suggesting that was the case.

The Plaintiffs Lose at Trial

The trial court agreed with Ford and dismissed the products liability case. The court explained that, while the law does not require expert testimony in every case, an accident victim must present sufficient evidence to establish that the defendant’s negligence was the actual cause of the their injuries. Here, the court noted that the plaintiffs were asking the court to make too big an inference.

On Appeal

The plaintiffs were unable to convince the appellate court of their case. The appellate court explained that, in all products liability lawsuits, one of the key issues is causation. Without proving that the defendant’s actions caused the plaintiffs’ harm, it cannot legally be held responsible for the damages caused.

In this case, the court explained that the jurors would have had a difficult time determining what injuries would have been caused if the airbags would have deployed. Without being able to determine that, it would be impossible to determine how much worse the accident was because of the faulty airbags.

Under Maryland law, these kinds of cases can heavily depend on the expert who is selected by the plaintiff. Many times, experts will be summoned by both sides. If the expert for the plaintiff is more convincing than that for the defendant, the case will often result in a favorable verdict for the plaintiff.

Have You Been Involved in a Maryland Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been involved in a serious Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary damages. Keep in mind, however, that you may need an expert to prove one or more aspects of your case. Maryland courts are hesitant to accept an unqualified opinion as fact, and they will prevent such a witness from testifying in front of a jury. To learn more about personal injury cases and expert witness selection, contact one of the dedicated Maryland accident attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers, by calling 410-654-3600 today.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Appellate Court Considers the Cap on Judgments Against Municipalities, Maryland Accident Law Blog, January 16, 2015.

Change of Venue Ordered in Medical Malpractice Case; Impartial Jury Concerns Cited, Maryland Accident Law Blog, December 1, 2014.

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