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My Friend the Expert. Not so Fast.

Expert witnesses are a necessary and critical aspect of litigation. Lawyers routinely use accounting experts for establishing the calculation of damages in breach of contract actions and medical experts for establishing the causal relationship and extent of injuries in negligence actions.

Expert witnesses can make or break your case, and selecting an expert witness is an important decision. The expert witness' credibility and bias are key factors that attorneys should consider when choosing an expert witness.

What if the expert is friends with the attorney? Should that matter?

Yes, according to the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal.

The Court in McKinny v. Graham recently addressed the relevancy and admissibility of testimony concerning an expert witness's bias. At trial, the plaintiff sought to cross-examine one of the medical experts regarding his friendship with the defendant's counsel. The trial court limited the inquiry as to whether the two were personal friends and how long their relationship had existed. The proffered testimony that the trial court did not permit was the extent of their personal relationship, including the fact that the defendant's counsel had been a groomsman at the expert's wedding.

The final judgment was appealed, and the Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed the final judgment and remanded the case for a new trial. The Fifth District Court of Appeal held that the plaintiff should have been permitted to inquire into the extent of the relationship between the expert and the defense counsel, stating: "if counsel elects to retain personal friends as experts, that relationship is relevant to bias."

This case illustrates how essential litigation decisions are when presenting a case.

Rosenthal Law Group is here to help you with all aspects of litigating your case, including the selection of the right expert witness for your case.