Huntoon v. TCI Cablevision of Colorado
969 P.2d 681
Brief Filed: 7/97
Court: Supreme Court of Colorado
Year of Decision: 1998
Read the full-text amicus brief (PDF, 322KB)
Whether a neuropsychologist is qualified to testify as to the causation of a head injury
Expert Witnesses/Psychologists' Competency, Neuropsychologists' Competency (Brain Injury Assessment)
Petitioner's vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by an employee of the defendant. Plaintiff received a directed verdict on the issue of liability and was awarded damages. The Colorado Court of Appeals reversed the decision and remanded the case for a new trial. That court found that one basis for the reversal was the trial court's error in allowing a neuropsychologist to testify on behalf of the plaintiff that the accident had caused the symptoms plaintiff displayed. While the court acknowledged that a neuropsychologist who had reviewed all of the appropriate documents could testify as to the existence of brain injury, it found that under Colorado law psychologists may not testify as to the causation of that injury because they are not medical doctors trained in the physiological aspects of the human body. Plaintiff filed a motion for rehearing which was denied.
APA, the National Academy of Neuropsychology, the Colorado Psychological Association and the Colorado Neuropsychological Society filed an amicus brief in support of petition for writ of certiorari. APA had recently filed briefs on the same issue before the North Carolina Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Neither case had been decided at the time of filing. In its brief, APA argued that: (1) the rules of evidence command liberal admission of expert opinion testimony; (2) courts have widely recognized that psychologists are experts in diagnosing the existence and causes of brain dysfunction; and (3) neuropsychologists are qualified by training and experience to provide expert testimony concerning causation of psychological conditions because that training is rigorous, scientific and relevant to the issues at bar.
The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari and reversed, finding no abuse of discretion in the admission of neuropsychologist testimony on issues of causation of brain injury. The court first found inappropriate the appellate court's categorical exclusion of neuropsychological testimony as to the physical cause of organic brain injury as a matter of law. Agreeing with APA, it held that neuropsychologists are not per se unqualified to speak on the causation of organic brain injury, and that the propriety of admissibility should be determined using the evidentiary rules applicable to all other expert testimony.