A ruling from early March 2019 from the New Jersey Supreme Court will allow testimony from medical experts regarding whether or not plaintiffs are “faking” their injuries in an effort for personal gain. Testimony of this kind has already been happening in civil cases throughout New Jersey, but the ruling from the state’s highest court clears up how malingering testimony can be applied to cases. There are detractors to the ruling who claim that all expert testimony should only be based on evidence and that this allows attacks on the character of the plaintiffs in cases.
Bruce Stern, former president of the New Jersey Association for Justice, said, “The doctor is coming in and saying, ‘I’m an expert, and in my opinion, the plaintiff is faking.’ But it is for the jury to determine the credibility of the plaintiff.”
The case that led to the ruling
The case that led to the ruling involved a woman named Alexandra Rodriguez. Rodriguez claimed that a clothing rack fell on top of her at a Walmart in South Jersey. She sued Walmart for damages because she claimed the incident left her with painful injuries. Dr. Benjamin Mark, a neurologist who was asked to testify on the behalf of Walmart, reviewed Rodriguez’s medical records and examined the plaintiff. Dr. Mark testified that “there was some observations that would be compatible with symptom enhancement or magnification.”
The jury assigned to the case ultimately ruled in favor of Walmart. The verdict was appealed by Rodriguez by claiming that the judge assigned to the trial should not have permitted testimony that claimed she lied about her injuries and how severe they were. She made the claim that the testimony from Dr. Mark took a shot at her credibility, which she said is outside the realm of an expert witness when it comes to them testifying.
The New Jersey Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Rodriguez, stating the following in its opinion: “Such opinion evidence from a doctor inherently has a clear capacity to deprive a plaintiff of a fair jury trial.”
The ruling from the Supreme Court
The ruling from the Appeals Court was overturned by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court believes that this type of testimony from an expert witness can be permitted in civil cases if the judge presiding over the case deems that it is appropriate. The Supreme Court went on to state that attorneys would be able to argue their case for the testimony in front of the judge but without the jury and the judge would then make a decision if the testimony can be made in the case.
Justice Barry Albin wrote the following: “Our review of the trial record reveals that there was sufficient credible evidence for a jury to conclude that plaintiff’s subjective complaints of pain were inconsistent with the objective medical evidence.”
This new ruling is a mark against the justice system, but that does not mean we will stop fighting for you, and for what is right. If you were injured by someone else’s negligence, our New Jersey injury lawyers are ready to help. Contact the team at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP today at 732-384-1331 or complete the contact form on the website to schedule a consultation at our offices in Edison, Toms River, or Red Bank.