PsychologyLaw Brief

PROBE LIMITATIONS OF EXPERTS’ TESTIMONY
 
Sharpen your depositions and trial examinations of mental health experts by probing whether the experts sufficiently accounted for limitations of their testimony—a feature of critical thinking, a mark of reliable testimony, and a professional responsibility (see Brief Quote below). Experts’ opinions are clearer when we understand what elements they include and exclude.

Consider the following lines of questions: 

Interviewing
 How might your evaluation have benefitted from more interviews with the litigant?
 Did you complete your interviews before you could discuss with the litigant additional information that you gathered from test results or from collateral sources (interviews with relevant third-parties and review of relevant records)?

Testing
 What are the limitations of each test that you used in this evaluation?
 How did the life circumstances of the litigant inform your interpretations of the test results? 


Reviews of Collateral Sources
 Which persons with relevant information did you fail to interview who could have informed your conclusions, opinions, and recommendations?
 What relevant records did you fail to review that could have informed your conclusions, opinions, and recommendations? 

Recommendations 
•  If research was cited to support recommendations: What are the limitations of the research on which you relied for your recommendations, and how did you account for those limitations as you applied the research findings to the facts in this case?
  If your recommendations fall apart in ten months, what circumstances might have caused the problems? 


Questions about limitations of expert testimony sharpen deposition and trial examinations. On direct in court, use an expert’s willingness to discuss limitations to showcase her knowledge and enhance her credibility—no expert can know everything. On cross, use limitations questions to chip away at the expert’s confident assertions. You’ll expose the strengths and weaknesses of the expert’s testimony and provide the court a clearer view of the quality of the testimony. 

References: John A. Zervopoulos, Confronting Mental Health Evidence—Second Ed. 123–28 (2015); How to Examine Mental Health Experts 187–94 (2013).

Brief Quote : “The forensic practitioner strives to identify any substantive limitations that may affect the reliability and validity of the facts or opinions offered, and communicates these to the decision maker.” American Psychological Assn., Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology, 68 Am. Psychol. 7, 11 (2013) (Guideline 4.02.02). 

Look for the next PsychologyLaw Brief on Tuesday morning, May 21.
 


John A. Zervopoulos, Ph.D., J.D., ABPP directs PsychologyLaw Partners, a consulting service that assists lawyers to effectively critique the work and testimony of mental health experts. As a lawyer and a board-certified forensic psychologist, Dr. Zervopoulos offers a unique approach that integrates caselaw with psychology's methods and literature, an approach he developed in three ABA-published books, including his most recent book,  Confronting Mental Health Evidence: A Practical PLAN to Examine Reliability and Experts in Family Law—Second Ed. and in How to Examine Mental Health Experts: A Family Lawyer’s Handbook of Issues and Strategies. For questions about how Dr. Zervopoulos may assist in your case, visit the PsychologyLaw Partners website, send an email to jzerv@psychologylawpartners.com, or call at 972-458-8007.

 
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Copyright © 2019 John A. Zervopoulos, All rights reserved.

John A. Zervopoulos, PhD, JD, ABPP
PsychologyLaw Partners
3131 McKinney Ave., Ste. 600, Dallas, TX  75204

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