Expert Article Library

Psychological Expert Testimony Excluded

Case Name: Halvorsen v. Plato Learning, Inc. (unpublished) (Click here for the full text of the case)

Court: United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit; on appeal from District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee

Date: February 15, 2006

Expert: Psychological Expert. Dr. Walker

Issues: Did the district court abuse its discretion by excluding Dr. Walker’s testimony.

Summary of case: The plaintiff’s husband, Mr. Halvorsen, was fired from his employment with Plato, an educational technology company, because the plaintiff would not leave her job at a competing company. Shortly thereafter Mr. Halvorsen died in a single-car motor vehicle accident. Mrs. Halvorsen sued Plato and at trial, summary judgment was awarded in favor of Plato. Mrs. Halvorsen appealed arguing, amongst other things, that the exclusion of expert psychological evidence at trial was an abuse of the court’s discretion.

Role of the expert: Dr. Walker performed a “psychological autopsy” on the plaintiff’s late husband and concluded that Plato’s actions led to his emotional state and contributed to the car accident. Dr. Walker did not view Mr. Halvorsen’s medical records but relied solely upon anecdotal evidence provided by the plaintiff.

Challenges to the Expert's testimony: The district court excluded Dr. Walker’s testimony on the basis that it amounted to a legal conclusion and so was outside the purview of expert testimony. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Summary prepared by R. Zapparoni