Pain & Suffering Testimony Limited Without Medical Testimony

Medical expert testimony is not absolutely necessary in every personal injury case.  But without it, there are limits as to the pain and suffering testimony a plaintiff may give.

Leiper v. Margolis was a car accident case.[1]  It seems liability was conceded, or at least not particularly disputed.  “Leiper sustained fractures to her ischium (hip bone) and two of her ribs….”  This seems to fit within the exception to the medical expert witness requirement.  Plaintiff could testify to her pain and suffering from those injuries without an expert.

Before trial, plaintiff apparently disclosed subsequent treatment for additional injuries that she asserted were related to the accident.  Defendant moved to exclude a treating physician (Dr. Miller) who “would have testified as to the extent of the injuries she suffered and how her subsequent medical condition related to the accident.”  The motion was granted, for reasons that were never recorded.[2]  The district court also “stated that pursuant to the motion in limine, Leiper could not testify to her pain unless there was medical testimony to support permanent injury related to the accident.”  As applied, this meant Plaintiff could testify about pain and suffering from the fracture, but not from the subsequent condition because there was no medical testimony linking the subsequent condition to the accident.  Regardless, the case was tried and the plaintiff recovered, but she then appealed arguing that excluding Dr. Miller was an abuse of discretion.

The Supreme Court concluded Dr. Miller should have been allowed to testify and reversed.  What is notable is the Supreme Court agreed with the district court’s restriction as to pain and suffering for the subsequent medical condition, but the restriction no longer applied because Dr.  Miller’s testimony should have been admitted.  “Had Dr. Miller testified that Leiper’s injuries resulted from the accident, Leiper would have been able to testify to the pain and suffering accompanying those injuries.”  Without that testimony, plaintiff’s own testimony about the subsequent medical condition was properly limited. “Leiper is a percipient witness to her own condition, and, as such, is entitled to give testimony regarding her condition.  While a lay witness may not give expert testimony as to the character or extent of her injury, she may testify as to her own health or physical condition.”

[1] 111 Nev. 1012, 1014-15, 899 P.2d 574, 575 (1995).

[2] Oops.