A recent decision by a federal district court in Florida caught our eye. The case, Ocasio et al. v. C.R. Bard, Inc., et al., No. 8:13-cv-1962, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58163, at *5 (M.D. Fla. May 4, 2015), arises from the injuries suffered by the plaintiff as a result of an allegedly defective implanted medical device. The plaintiff’s main expert offered opinions on the adequacy of design, testing, and labeling of the device; compliance with the regulatory process; and a summary of internal documents, including opinions as to defendant Bard’s knowledge, intent, or state of mind. Bard moved to exclude these proffered opinions on the grounds that they were outside the bounds of admissible expert testimony.
Agreeing with Bard, the court excluded the expert’s proffered summaries of Bard’s internal corporate documents, along with his opinions regarding the defendant’s state of mind, intent, or knowledge. The court held that this testimony was not helpful to the finder of fact because it “invades the province of the jury, which is capable of deciding such matters without an expert’s help.” Id. at *11. In particular, the court found that the excluded expert’s testimony summarizing Bard’s documents was improper because “an expert cannot be presented to the jury for the purpose of constructing a factual narrative based upon record evidence.” Rather, “the jury may consider only the underlying evidence itself, which should be presented directly to the jury through percipient witnesses and exhibits.”
This all may seem self-evident and unremarkable, particularly where an expert attempts to opine about an ultimate issue (e.g., a party’s internal knowledge, intent or motive). But in matters where the facts are complex and the issues diffuse, there can be a temptation to rely on experts to illustrate a factual narrative that is helpful to a client’s case. The ruling inOcasio provides a firm reminder that expert testimony should not be stretched beyond its proper boundaries; leave the facts to percipient witnesses and limit experts to the discrete technical issues that they are qualified to testify about.