High Court Judge Frustrated at the use of Expert Witnesses in Personal Injury Action

Mr Justice Charleton in his Judgement in Flynn v Bus Atha Cliath chose to comment on the role of expert witnesses called in road traffic collision personal injury cases.

The Judge noted that in the case at hand, three expert witnesses were called to give evidence in respect of liability, being an engineer for the Plaintiff and one for the Defendant and an expert in driving for the Plaintiff. In addition, the Judge noted that five medical personnel were called in this “simple” case about bruising to a leg and a sore back.

The Judge noted the benefit of experts in resolving specialised issues stating that, “the purpose of an expert witness is to enable the Court to be instructed on arcane disciplines which are outside the experience of a Judge or jury".

The Judge noted however that in the case at hand at one point the court was informed by an expert of the average speed of the average person walking. The Judge indicated that this is something which is clearly common knowledge.

The Jude went on to comment upon the type of expert evidence that should be given. He noted that in this case which concerned the speed of a bus and braking reaction times due to the presence of a pedestrian on a roadway, “that with the exception of making a calculation as to the speed of the bus by reference to landmarks passed on the video and the distance ahead of the child that was on the road, none of the testimony that was given by the experts involved any expertise. Nor was the evidence, outside that set of calculations as to speed and distance, admissible as expert evidence. Instead it was inadmissible opinion and comment”.

The Judge did stress that his comment is not a criticism of Counsel and it is not a criticism of the experts involved and acknowledged that the practise was now universal and thought it would be worthwhile controlling it as additional costs and excess length of time taken to try a case may impede the constitutional right of citizens to have recourse to the courts. The Judge did indicate that appropriate Orders as to costs focusing on unnecessary experts may assist in that regard as may further Rules of the Court.

The full Decision can be found here:

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