Maryland Court Finds No Error in Allowing Vocational Expert to Testify in Lead-Based Paint Case

In a negligence lawsuit, the testimony of an expert witness may be crucial to provide evidence supporting or refuting the allegations.  A qualified expert may testify as to the standard of care, causation, damages, and/or other elements of the claim.  In a February 2, 2021 Maryland personal injury case, the Court of Special Appeals considered whether the opinion testimony of an expert was properly allowed by the trial court.  The appeal was brought by the defendant after a jury awarded damages to the plaintiff resulting from his exposure to lead paint.

The plaintiff in the case had resided in a property owned by the defendant from his birth in December of 1991 to March of 1993.  The plaintiff claimed that as a result of his exposure to chipping, lead-based paint at the property, he suffered permanent cognitive deficits.  The plaintiff further alleged that the defendant’s negligence in failing to remove the lead-based paint from the property was a substantial contributing factor in causing his injuries.

At trial, the plaintiff presented testimony from multiple expert witnesses, including an expert in the field of lead-based paint detection, a clinical psychologist, a neurodevelopment pediatrician and a vocational rehabilitation consultant.  The jury ultimately returned a verdict finding that the defendant was negligent and awarded the plaintiff nearly $885,000 in future noneconomic damages and past damages.

One of the grounds for appeal argued by the defendant was that the trial court erred in permitting the vocational rehabilitation specialist to offer opinion testimony about the grade level at which the plaintiff would likely function if he had no cognitive or behavioral deficits.  The defendant contended that there was no factual basis for such testimony, without a scientific opinion to support it.

Under Maryland law, the court is required to evaluate three factors when determining whether to allow expert testimony: (1) whether the witness is qualified as an expert by knowledge, experience, training, or education; (2) the appropriateness of the expert testimony on the particular subject; and (3) whether a sufficient factual basis exists to support the expert testimony.

On appeal, the court found that the expert’s opinion had several factual bases.  The court noted that the opinion was based on statistical data about the average education level of the local adult population, the plaintiff’s parents’ education backgrounds, and the opinions of the other experts who testified at trial.  The court concluded that the opinion of the vocational expert that the plaintiff would have likely possessed a high school diploma without cognitive impairments was well-supported by the statistical data and other experts’ opinions regarding the plaintiff’s cognitive defects.  The court further explained that such opinions can aid the jury in assessing damages, as in the instant case.  The court went on to affirm the verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

A Maryland personal injury lawyer can provide trustworthy advice concerning your legal options after an accident.  At Foran & Foran, our attorneys represent individuals who have been hurt in automobile collisions, premises liability accidents, medical malpractice, and other incidents caused by negligence.  Request a free consultation to discuss your injury with a qualified attorney by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting Foran & Foran online.

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