Appellate Court reinstates a claim where the trial judge erred in limiting expert testimoy
In Fuller v. Tramel, the trial judge granted summary disposition for the Defendant after rejecting the Plaintiff's human factors expert testimony. The Plaintiff had presented a University of Michigan Psychology professor's analysis of the sight distance and reaction time available to the Defendant who struck plaintiff Fuller while crossing Eight Mile Road.
The Defendant had argued that the plaintiff had drunkenly stumbled into the dark road too late to be avoided. The expert witness pointed out that he was hit in an interior lane, after crossing another lane, and that even at the lowest speed of the range acknowledged by the Defendant, the Defendant driver had ample time to see and avoid the plaintiff.
The judge, no doubt influenced by the fact that the plaintiff had stopped for several beers with co-workers, excluded the witness's testimony and summarily threw out the case, holding that a jury could not find in the plaintiff's favor. The higher court reversed, pointing out that the expert was qualified, demonstrated ample knowledge of his subject matter, and used only conservative assumptions and established facts in presenting opinion testimony that would have been useful to reasonable jurors in assessing the relative fault of the parties.