Schultz v. Wells - Personal Injury Case

Colorado Overview- Peter Nordberg. E-mail: Last revised: 1/18/05

In Schultz v. Wells, 13 P.3d 846 (Colo. App. 2000), the Court of Appeals considered proffered engineering testimony about automobile collision experiments with human volunteers offered to prove the threshold of force below which a person probably could not be injured in a rear-end automobile collision. Because the court found that such experiments did not "involve a novel scientific process or device applied to the ‘manipulation’ of physical evidence," and that the jury need not understand highly technical or obscure scientific theories in order to understand the evidence, it ruled that such testimony was governed by CRE 702, not Frye. Id. at 850. The Court also found that the trial court had not abused its discretion in excluding evidence of gravity forces that apply in daily human activities such as coughing, stepping off a curb, skipping robe, riding in "bumper cars," or being bumped while sitting in a chair. Pursuant to CRE 403, the trial court had discretion to exclude evidence that was misleading in that it "did not take into consideration the entire mechanical movement of the body during a car collision, in that it did not address forces from other directions and the position of the body at the time of the accident." Id. at 852.

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