No Expertise Required: How D.C. Has Erred in Expanding Its Expert Testimony Requirement

32 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2012

See all articles by Colin Miller

Colin Miller

University of South Carolina School of Law

Date Written: August 13, 2012


In addressing an appeal by Allen Iverson from a negligent supervision verdict against him, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia noted that the former NBA star’s “argument stem[med] from a peculiar aspect of common law negligence in the District of Columbia.” That peculiar aspect is D.C.’s expert testimony requirement, which requires expert testimony to establish the pertinent standard of care unless the subject in question is within the realm of common knowledge and everyday experience of the jurors. Such a requirement is not anomalous in the professional malpractice context, and the Iverson court claimed that D.C.’s requirement was in fact born out of such cases.

According to the court, though, the D.C. Court of Appeals has deviated from the norm by “[r]ecently…requir[ing] expert testimony in a wider variety of cases,…even those that might initially seem to fall within jurors’ common knowledge.” Such cases include disputes regarding the application of hair relaxer, the placement of monkey bars eight feet above hard packed mud, and the failure to remove a dead, prominently leaning tree. In each case, the result is the same: The D.C. Court of Appeals finds that the plaintiff cannot recover without expert testimony concerning the pertinent standard of care. This essay argues that D.C. has improperly expanded its expert testimony requirement and should circumscribe it to malpractice cases and trials involving truly technical matters.

Keywords: Expert Testimony, Negligence Standard of Care

JEL Classification: K13, K41

Suggested Citation

Miller, Colin, No Expertise Required: How D.C. Has Erred in Expanding Its Expert Testimony Requirement (August 13, 2012). Rutgers Law Record, Vol. 39, 2012. Available at SSRN:

Colin Miller (Contact Author)

University of South Carolina School of Law ( email )

1525 Senate Street
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

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