Biomedical Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Hit-And-Run Litigation

Summary: Biomedical Expert Witness testimony allowed as the court opined that the expert did not have to have first-hand knowledge of the accident to provide reliable testimony

Facts: This case (HEATH v. J S HELWIG & SON LLC et al – United States District Court – Middle District of Georgia – March 24th, 2024) involves a hit-and-run motor vehicle accident.  The plaintiff, Tina Heath, alleges that an 18-wheeler with the defendant’s name on it, hit her 2006 Dodge Charger, pushed it into a guard rail, and continued on without stopping.  The plaintiff filed suit against the driver Jeffrey Black  for negligently causing her injuries.  In addition, she alleges that the other defendant, Helwig, is vicariously liable and directly liable because they negligently hired, trained, and entrusted Black with the tractor trailer.   The defendants subsequently hired Biomedical Expert Witness Richard C. Baratta, Ph.D.  to provide expert witness testimony.  The plaintiff filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion: The plaintiff argues that Dr. Baratta’s expert witness testimony should be excluded because he is not qualified and because his testimony is not reliable or helpful to the trier of fact.

The plaintiff argues that Dr. Baratta is not qualified to render an expert witness opinion about the medical causation of her injuries.  The court, and even Dr. Baratta, agrees with the plaintiff, stating that he is not a medical doctor and is not qualified to provide a medical causation opinion.

The plaintiff also argues that Dr. Baratta’s opinions are not reliable because he did not go to the scene of the accident, did not see the photos of the tractor trailer, and did not have a conversation with the plaintiff or the truck driver.  Thus, the plaintiff alleges that Dr. Baratta did not conduct any first-hand investigations.  The court disagrees with the plaintiff, stating that an expert is not required to base his opinions on first-hand knowledge of the accident.

Also, the court points out that Dr. Baratta relied on biomechanical methods that were subject to peer review and have been tested in the scientific community.

Conclusion: The plaintiff’s motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Richard C. Baratta, Ph.D. is denied.