Virginia: Special Cases – a Lawyer’s Experts

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On July 8, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated and remanded grant of summary judgment by United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in an unpublished opinion in the personal injury suit, Hodges v. Federal – Mogul Corp., No. 14-1333. Id. at 21. Essentially, the Fourth Circuit found that the Judge in Hodges improperly made a key witness credibility determination to find no genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 14-18.

“Where a witness’s deposition testimony is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, an alleged factual dispute created by the testimony need not be credited and will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment.” Id. at 15-16 (internal quotations omitted). However, Hodges held that because the witness at bar’s wavering qualified testimony was not “physically impossible,” it “should have been credited for summary judgment purposes”. Id. at 16.

The Judge “erred by assessing Hodge’s credibility and rejecting his evidence at the summary judgment stage,” ruled the Fourth Circuit in Hodges. “Rather, the inconsistencies and possible errors in Hodge’s testimony should be considered and resolved by a jury.” Id. at 18.

Notably, Hodges also declined to affirm on alternative grounds vis-à-vis the Judge’s exclusion of Plaintiff’s causation/defect experts. The scope of the Judge’s exclusionary ruling was unclear and, more importantly, was based in part on the rejected key factual witness testimony: “the court’s exclusion of the origin opinions [as ‘unreliable’] may well warrant a full reassessment.” Id. at 20 n.6.