HB Litigation Conferences recently produced “Introduction of General & Specific Causation Evidence,” a day of training for tort lawyers. Legal writer Scott Jacobs liked these quotes from two of the judges presenting at the event. The materials from this program are now available from HB.
Judge Mary Miller Johnston, Superior Court of Delaware, Wilmington, explained that some of the best experts are those that are animated, “move their arms around” and “have something to point to.” She explained that “whether we like it or not” juries will react negatively to somebody who is arrogant. She likened the jury’s attitude to certain experts with jurors’ attitudes towards certain defendants. Judge Johnston said some the best examples are doctors in medical malpractice cases “who did nothing wrong at all, but because he is an SOB a– and doctors are some of the most arrogant people around — a jury will punish the defendant.”
“The same thing holds true for an expert witness,” the judge added. “Get one with a personality, who tells a good story [and] it is just human nature a jury will listen to and like the expert.”
Judge Sandra Mazer Moss, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, discussed expert admissibility hearings in her remarks. “I like to have my Frye hearings several weeks if not a month before the trial. I don’t want to have all that last-minute money being spent. A lot of times I have been asked to have Frye hearing because of a concern for spending of money. I prefer to have live experts – keep it short and concise. You need to prep your expert. In one hearing, it turned out a particular expert had been convicted of Medicaid fraud and when confronted by it, the expert turned to me and said ‘can you believe they sent me to jail for that?’ and I said ‘yes, I can believe it.’”
Expert Looked Like A Hack
Judge Moss recalled interviewing a jury post-trial about an expert who she felt did a good job. It turns out this particular jury did not find the expert credible, which took her by surprise.
“They thought this guy was a hack, that he testified all the time we couldn’t figure out how the jury could have known this. The jury told us that without looking this witness would pull out a shelf on the stand to place his papers. He knew this shelf was there and the jury caught it. They knew. The next time he testified in my court, this expert sat down, looked up at me and said ‘your honor, is there a place to put my papers?’”