Articles Posted in Experts

A Cook County trucking accident recently resulted in a $675,000 verdict for the plaintiff, who suffered traumatic brain injuries as a result of the 2005 rear-end collision. The Illinois personal injury case was brought against both the defendant driver and his employer; Heather Davis v. Keith M. Longsine, Schneider National Carriers Inc., 07 L 3098.

The Illinois highway accident occurred in March 2005, during Illinois’s road construction season. The plaintiff, Heather Davis, had come to a complete stop due to the road construction on Illinois Interstate 94 near Thornton, Illinois. However, the truck driven by defendant, Keith Longsine, did not stop and ended up crashing into Davis’s vehicle. At the time of the accident, Longsine was driving a truck owned by his employer, Schneider National Carriers, Inc.

At the Illinois personal injury trial, the plaintiff hired a mechanical engineer to offer opinions as to how fast the defendant was driving at the time of the rear-end crash. The severity of the impact caused Davis’s car to be pushed five feet forward into the rear of a pickup truck stopped in front of her. In addition, Davis’s airbags deployed and her headrest broke off of her driver’s seat. The plaintiff’s engineering expert, Michael Rogers, used this information to opine that the defendant was driving in excess of 33 mph when the trucking accident occurred.

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In the Illinois auto accident lawsuit of Corinne Thompson v. Christie Gordon, et al., No. 110066 (IL Sup. Ct.), the Illinois Supreme Court held that an engineer does not have to be professionally licensed in Illinois in order to qualify as an “expert” witness in an Illinois civil lawsuit. The Supreme Court’s decision affirmed the decision made by the appellate court; however, it reversed the circuit court’s ruling that the civil engineer hired by the plaintiff needed to be licensed in the state of Illinois in order to testify as an expert witness in the pending civil suit.

In Illinois, qualifications for various types of trial witnesses are established under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 213. A civil engineer, such as the one in Thompson, who is hired to testify as to the standard of care within his or her professional field, would be handled under Rule 213(f)(3). This section deals with “controlled expert witnesses,” i.e., the party’s retained expert, and requires the party to provide the expert’s qualifications to provide opinions on the specialized subject matter.

In Thompson, it was these qualifications that were up for debate. While the plaintiff held that its civil engineer was qualified to testify based on his experience and education, the defendants held that without being professionally licensed in Illinois he could not provide opinions as to the standard of care required of the defendants’ engineers and contractors. The defendants brought a motion to strike the civil engineer’s testimony as to the design defects of a highway intersection, which was granted by the circuit court. Plaintiffs appealed this decision; without the civil engineer’s expert testimony it would be almost impossible for the plaintiff to prove her claims against the defendants.

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