Presenting sufficient evidence is crucial for a plaintiff to establish a Maryland personal injury claim. Generally, the trial court will determine whether evidence is admissible, and therefore permitted to be shown to a jury. In an April 16, 2020 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed some of the disputed evidence in a lead paint case. The appeal arose from a lawsuit filed by the plaintiff, who alleged that the defendant’s negligence resulted in her exposure to lead paint. After a trial, the jury returned a verdict finding the defendant not guilty of negligence. The plaintiff then sought review regarding the admissibility of certain evidence in the case.
The plaintiff in the case had lived at a property owned by the defendants from her birth in 1996 until 2008. Her mother testified that the plaintiff had learned to sit, crawl, and walk at the property, and would put thing in her mouth that were on the floor, including paint chips and things with paint chips on them. She also testified that the plaintiff had difficulty in school, specifically problems with focusing and concentrating.
At trial, the plaintiff sought to admit a lead testing survey report relied upon by her expert witness. The defendant objected in that the report was prepared by someone whom the expert had trained. The trial court ruled that the expert could testify about the data in the report, but that the report could not be admitted or given to the jury for their interpretation. At the close of trial, the jury found in favor of the defendant. One of the issues argued by the plaintiff on appeal was that the trial court had erred by not allowing the lead testing survey report.
Generally, when an expert relies on data in reaching an expert opinion, the data may be admitted into evidence for the purpose of explaining the basis of the expert’s opinion. However, the trial court has discretion to exclude evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.
On appeal, the court reviewed the lead testing survey report and found that the data contained in the report had the potential to confuse the jury without an included explanation of what that data means. In light of that, and because the plaintiff was able to convey the relevant information in the report to the jury through the testimony of the expert witness and closing argument, the appeals court held that the trial court did not err by excluding the report from evidence. The appeals court went on to affirm the jury verdict.
Proving a negligence claim may seem challenging, but an experienced Maryland personal injury lawyer can guide you through the process and present your case in court. At Foran & Foran, we represent individuals who have been injured as a result of medical malpractice, motor vehicle crashes, premises liability accidents, and more. To discuss your injury and legal rights with a qualified attorney, contact Foran & Foran online or call (301) 441-2022 and request a free consultation.