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May 2013 Bar Bulletin

Challenging Experts with Motions in Limine

By Matthew R. King

 

Occasionally, a party will challenge an expert in a Frye hearing in an attempt to find the expert not qualified to render opinions. However, a more common approach is to file a motion in limine challenging the expert's qualifications and opinions.

The admissibility of expert testimony is governed by ER 702, involving a two-step analysis: (1) whether the witness qualifies as an expert, and (2) whether the expert testimony would be helpful to the trier of fact.1

Qualification

No expert opinion is admissible unless the witness has been qualified by showing he has sufficient expertise to state a helpful and meaningful opinion.2 A witness qualified as an expert may only express an opinion with respect to those issues covered by that expertise.3 Even the issues that are logically related to the witness's area of expertise may call for sufficiently different qualifications so that certain testimony by that witness should be excluded.4

In Harris, the court properly limited testimony of a research associate professor to the area of his expertise (physiology). The court refused to allow testimony regarding the accepted methods of treating iritis and the diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma, and his opinions regarding proximate cause of the plaintiff's injury. The court reasoned that the "expert" was not qualified to render opinions outside his expertise.

In Van Blargan v. Williams,5 the court addressed a similar situation. There, the plaintiff was suing a hotel for negligent security. The court excluded the testimony of a private investigator expected to testify regarding hotel security. The court reasoned the private investigator's expertise was private investigation, but not hotel security.

Many experts attempt to opine regarding secondary or tertiary subjects incidental to their ultimate opinion. By challenging these areas in limine, you can dramatically limit the expert's ability to explain the science underlying their opinions.

Lack of Methodology


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