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Expert Witnesses in Litigation: When is one needed?


A truly make or break element of litigation is whether an expert witness is needed.  Some cases require an expert by statute, but that is the great minority of cases.  Each other case is a subjective assessment of the facts.  

Minnesota does have a legal standard for whether an expert is required.  

The test of whether expert testimony is required is whether the matter to be dealt with is so esoteric that jurors of common knowledge and experience cannot form
a valid judgment as to whether the conduct of the parties was reasonable.”  Radel v. Bloom Lake Farms, 553 N.W.2d 109, 111 (Minn. Ct. App. 1996)(quotation omitted), review denied (Minn. Oct. 29, 1996).

Expert testimony based on adequate factual foundation is required to prove causation if the issue involves matters outside of ordinary lay knowledge. Gross v. Victoria Station Farms, Inc., 578 N.W.2d 757, 762 (Minn. 1998).

 

The enigma with the above is you do not know who your jurors will be at the time you decide whether you need an expert.  The decision must be made on experience, prior case law, knowing your judiciary, and instinct.  You have to assess if a real estate problem in Roseville related to farmland will be understood the same as if the dispute was in Grant.  Are you more likely to get a jury in Washington County that understands certain real estate issues compared to a jury in Ramsey County?


Like a lot of law, there is an express standard for retention of an expert, but that standard is less than perfectly clear.  I do not want you to lose your case because you didn't know whether to retain an expert, or what type of expert to retain.  Rely on my experience and knowledge to help you make a correct decision.







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