Horvitz & Levy LLP successfully defended a jury verdict in favor of a defendant medical center in a case in which the trial court excluded the plaintiff’s expert witnesses. In affirming the judgment, the Court of Appeal clarified the scope of a trial court’s authority to exclude expert testimony when a party fails to comply with certain discovery deadlines.
Plaintiff sued Enloe Medical Center for negligence and neglect of a dependent adult based on the Enloe’s alleged failure to provide various forms of treatment during plaintiff’s stay. Plaintiff initially refused to exchange expert witness information by the deadline, causing Enloe also to miss the deadline. Although the discovery statute did not require the exclusion of plaintiff’s experts in this circumstance, the trial court decided to exclude plaintiff’s experts on the second day of trial. In light of the absence of expert testimony showing how the alleged negligence caused plaintiff’s injuries, the jury found in favor of Enloe.
The Court of Appeal affirmed in a unanimous decision, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding plaintiff’s experts or denying plaintiff’s request to continue trial and reopen expert discovery. The court held that plaintiff’s excuse for missing the expert disclosure deadline—his belief opposing counsel should be disqualified for a conflict of interest—was not an exceptional circumstance justifying his belated disclosure. The court also held that plaintiff’s claimed instructional error was harmless because the any error was in the negligence instructions, but the only cause of action submitted to the jury for decision was neglect of a dependent adult.