Anderson-Moody v. Wilson—(Per Curiam Roberts, Bilbrey, and M.K. Thomas; 1st DCA; 2/15/23).
This personal injury appeal concerns wrongful admission of expert testimony. (Note: I’m not going to lie. I view my job as reporting what the court said, not reporting my own thoughts. Readers need to know what courts are holding, not whether some guy thinks they got it “right.” But this one is hard to square with my knowledge of the Florida evidence code, though every judge on the panel is highly experienced).
The defendant disputed the portion of a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor devoting around $340,000 of the $1.6 million verdict to the need for future facet injections and epidurals. The only witness who testified that the plaintiff would need such injections was not one of the treating physicians; it was the life care plan expert called by the plaintiff. While many life care plan experts are not physicians, this one was. Dr. Ahmadian is a neurosurgeon, and the doctor had reviewed the plaintiff’s medical records and conducted a physical examination of the plaintiff as part of drawing up the life care plan.
The defense preserved the issue by filing a motion in limine and then filing a motion for new trial and a motion for remittitur objecting to the testimony about injections as beyond the scope of Dr. Ahmadian’s expertise. The judge partially granted the motion in limine, allowing the doctor to testify only as a life care plan expert, not express medical opinions.
On the face of it, it seems like hiring a life care plan expert who is also a physician is an excellent way to demonstrate that a life care plan that goes beyond what the treating physicians are recommending is based on actual expertise. What business does a non-physician life care expert have with disagreeing with treating physicians about future medical needs? But a physician life care plan expert seems well qualified to do so. And the jury accepted Dr. Ahmadian’s testimony. But the DCA seems to have held Dr. Ahmadian’s medical qualifications against him.
Yes, the standard of review is abuse of discretion. Yes, section 90.704, Fla. Stat., allows experts to base their opinions on facts in evidence or upon his knowledge if they are the type reasonably relied upon by experts in the subject. Yes, experts may be qualified by experience or training or both. But while Dr. Ahmadian had a medical degree, most life care plan experts don’t. The DCA focused on the language in case law that says that experts are entitled to rely on facts or data that are reasonably relied upon by experts in the field. Most life care plan experts are not doctors, and the trial court had granted the defense motion in limine in part, excluding the doctor’s medical opinions but admitting the life care plan opinions. Specifically, the court states that while the doctor was a neurosurgeon,
- [n]othing in the record indicates that life care plan experts typically use their experience as a physician to determine the future medical care needs of plaintiffs. Rather, life care planners rely on admissible evidence from medical experts or treating physician when creating the life care plan.
The DCA specifically stated:
- The question presented is whether an expert witness, offered as a life care planner, may infuse his or her own medical opinions in calculating certain costs of future medical care when such future care is not recommended by a treating physician or medical expert. We answer the question in the negative.
Without that doctor’s testimony, no evidence supported the $340,000 for injections, so that portion of the judgment was reversed.