Federal District Court in East Texas Reviews Defendants’ Motion Seeking to Force Plaintiff to Pay Expert Witness Fees in Truck Accident Case

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Preparing a lawsuit for trial can be a time-consuming and expensive endeavor. In addition to retaining experts on the plaintiff’s behalf, plaintiff’s counsel may also find it necessary to depose the experts retained by the defendant in order to anticipate how a particular expert witness’s testimony is likely to impact the trial of the case.

Expert witnesses are usually paid quite well for their services. Insomuch as the witness’s testimony may be necessary to the plaintiff’s case, an expert’s fee is usually money well-spent. However, under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the plaintiff may be also be responsible for paying a portion of the fee charged by the defendant’s expert in some situations.

This is, of course, a much more bitter pill to swallow – especially when the defendant asks the plaintiff pay the expert for time that he or she spent consulting with the defendant’s own attorneys about the case.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case heard by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division, the plaintiff was a man who was allegedly injured in a tractor-trailer accident. He filed suit against the driver and owner of the semi-truck that collided into his pickup, causing him to careen into the vehicle in front of him.

During the discovery phase of the litigation, the defendants retained three experts to give an opinion on the amount of economic loss suffered by the plaintiff (presumably, loss of future earning capacity was an element of the damages for which he sought compensation from the defendants). The plaintiff’s attorney deposed all three witnesses as part of the discovery process.

The defendants filed a motion seeking to have the court order the plaintiff to pay the experts’ fees and expenses.

The Court’s Holding

The court first noted the amounts of the charges at issue: 1) $2500 for deposition and $500 for “deposition prep” to the first “retained medical expert”; 2) $3364.52, of which $612.50 was for her deposition, to the second “retained economist” expert; and 3) $8883.94, of which $408.94 was for travel, to the third “vocational rehabilitationist” expert.

After reviewing the proof (or lack thereof) of the reasonableness of the experts’ fees and expenses, the federal district court granted the defendants’ application for expert fees and expenses in part and denied it in part.

According to the court, there was insufficient detail for the court to award costs with respect to the first expert because the defendants did not provide any documentation delineating the amount of time that the expert spent consulting with the retaining attorneys. As to the second expert, the court noted that the plaintiff did not object to paying the deposition portion of this expert’s fee but found that the defendants were responsible for the remainder of the charges because they had not proven how much time was spent with the retaining attorneys. Because the plaintiff did not object to the third expert’s travel expenses, the court ordered that the plaintiff pay that portion of the fee but found that the remainder of the expert’s charges were unreasonable in light of her level of education (she was not a medical doctor or Ph.D.) or the fact that the subject matter of her testimony was “not particularly complex in the realm of experts.”

The court then observed that the plaintiff had, prior to the defendants’ motion, agreed to pay a portion of the fees at issue but that, thereafter, the court had found a lack of evidence that the plaintiff was responsible for some of the fees he had originally agreed to pay. In order to solve this dilemma, the court granted the defendants additional time in which to submit information clarifying the experts’ preparation time, particularly time spent consulting with the defendants’ attorneys.

For Legal Assistance in Your Car or Truck Accident Case

Litigation involving 18-wheelers can be very complex. It pays to have an experienced attorney on your side as you navigate the many issues that arise in such a high stakes case. To schedule an appointment with seasoned east Texas truck accident lawyer Earl Drott, call (903) 531-9300. We offer a free, completely confidential case evaluation of your Tyler or Smith County truck wreck case.

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