In Illinois auto cases, can a defense lawyer call plaintiff's injuries into question by introducing photographs showing little damage to the plaintiff's car in the absence of expert testimony? The answer: it depends.
In Dicosola v. Bowman, the 1st District held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting the admission of such photographs without expert testimony:
[W]e are not creating a bright-line rule, we are rejecting a bright-line rule. To hold, as the dissent suggests, that such photographs are always relevant and admissible, is to create a bright-line rule that expert testimony is never required. We do not hold that expert testimony must always be required for such photographic evidence to be admissible. We hold that the trial court in this case did not abuse its discretion in requiring expert testimony to show a correlation between the extent of the vehicular damage and the extent of plaintiff's injuries.
In Ferro v. Griffiths, the 3d District recently held that a trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing such photographs without expert testimony:
[W]e refuse to adopt a rigid rule that proscribes the admission of pictures without an expert. The critical question in admitting these photographs is whether the jury can properly relate the vehicular damage depicted in the pictures to the injury without the aid of an expert. This is an evidentiary question that the trial judge must resolve. While this case is close, we cannot say that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting the photographs without expert testimony.
In reaching opposite results on similar facts, both courts agreed that there is no bright-line rule. The Ferro court, which allowed the photographs, was apparently swayed by the fact that the photos seemed to contradict the plaintiff's testimony that the impact was "very heavy." Readers who have auto cases can decide whether the Ferro court ignored the Dicosola court's reminder that absent expert testimony, "any inference by the jury that minimal damage to the plaintiff's car translates into minimal personal injuries to the plaintiff would necessarily amount to unguided speculation." (The Dicosola court was quoting a Delaware case.)