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Expert Witnesses: Qualifications & Requirements

Sometimes litigation requires expert testimony to highlight areas of technical or specialized knowledge. To be qualified as an expert witness in Missouri, “it must appear that by reason of education or specialized experience [the expert] possesses superior knowledge respecting a subject about which persons having no particular training are incapable of forming an accurate opinion or drawing correct conclusions.” State v. Stevens, 467 S.W.2d 10 (Mo. 1971). Even if the witness has some qualifications, the trial court may permit the testimony. Kell v. Kell, 53 S.W.3d 203, 209 (Mo. Ct. App. 2001). The extent of an expert’s training or experience goes to the weight and credibility of the testimony and does not necessarily render the testimony incompetent or all together improper. Id.

For appellate purposes, the admission of expert testimony is within the trial court’s discretion, and the trial court’s determination on the admissibility of expert testimony will not be disturbed unless there is an abuse of discretion. Grab ex rel. Grab v. Dillon, 103 S.W.3d 228, 238 (Mo. Ct. App. 2003). An abuse of discretion is present when a ruling is clearly against the logic of the circumstances before it and is so arbitrary and unreasonable that it shocks the sense of justice and indicates a lack of judicial consideration. Whitworth v. Jones, 41 S.W.3d 625, 627 (Mo. Ct. App. 2001).

In certain cases, expert testimony is all but required: medical malpractice, challenges to wills/trusts/estate documents based on lack of capacity, etc. In other cases, it may be necessary to have an expert to have an informed voice simplify a complex issue for the Court/jury. It is important to communicate with your attorney about the potential need for expert testimony in a given case. Substantively, it may be extremely important. Practically, expert testimony is often quite costly. 

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