This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Donna Dickison, et al.,
David Wall, et al.,
Olmsted County District Court
File No. C7992637
Peter C. Sandberg, Dunlap and Seeger, P.A., 206 South Broadway, Suite 505, P.O. Box 549, Rochester, MN 55903-0549 (for appellants)
Jason L. Schmickle, Hansen, Dordell, Bradt, Odlaug & Bradt, P.L.L.P., 3900 Northwoods Drive, Suite 250, St. Paul, MN 55112 (for respondents)
Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Kalitowski, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellants Grant and Donna Dickison contend that the district court abused its discretion by permitting an accident reconstructionist to testify that appellants were at fault for a car accident. We affirm.
Under Minn. R. Evid. 704, expert testimony “within the witness’s field of expertise is admissible even if the expert’s opinion touches on the ultimate issues that the jury must decide.” Scott v. Johnson, 379 N.W.2d 180, 182 (Minn. App. 1985), review denied (Minn. Feb. 19, 1986). And it is within the broad discretion of the court to decide if an expert opinion embracing the ultimate legal question is admissible. State v. McCarthy, 259 Minn. 24, 31, 104 N.W.2d 673, 678 (1960). Accident-reconstruction evidence may be admitted if the evidence is sufficient to avoid speculation, otherwise gives a “reasonably complete and accurate reconstruction,” and, “more importantly,” assists the jury. Dunshee v. Douglas, 255 N.W.2d 42, 47 (Minn. 1977) (quotation omitted).
Appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion in permitting respondent’s expert to respond to a question concerning which party was at fault in this car accident because determining fault was the ultimate issue for the jury to decide.
But in Behlke v. Conwed Corp., 474 N.W.2d 351, 357 (Minn. App. 1991), review denied (Minn. Oct. 11, 1991), this court held that accident-reconstruction testimony is admissible even though it embraces an ultimate issue to be decided by the jury. We determined that expert testimony concerning the “ultimate issue of negligence” is proper under Minn. R. Evid. 704, as long as such testimony is helpful to the jury and sufficient foundation for the testimony has been established. Id.; see also Polacec v. Voigt, 385 N.W.2d 867, 869-70 (Minn. App. 1986) (accident reconstructionist was properly allowed to testify as to which driver’s vehicle was in passing lane and, thus, was cause of head-on collision, where expert was eminently qualified, and eyewitnesses were admittedly uncertain about what actually happened), review denied (Minn. June 19, 1986).
Therefore, even though the expert’s testimony embraced the ultimate issue to be decided by the jury, such testimony was proper as long as the district court determined that it was helpful for the jury and sufficient foundation for the testimony had been established.
Here, foundation was appropriately established for the testimony. The expert was employed as an accident-reconstruction consultant and prior to that, had worked for 20 years as an accident reconstructionist for the Minnesota State Patrol. During that time period, the expert estimated that he reconstructed more than 700 car accidents. And here he based his testimony on sufficient factual data. He reviewed the depositions of the parties and the accident report completed by the Rochester police, and also visited the accident site.
Moreover, the expert’s testimony provided the jury with information about the accident that was outside the jury’s knowledge and experience and added precision and depth to the jury’s understanding of the case. Therefore, we cannot say the district court erred in determining that the expert testimony was helpful to the jury. See State v. Borchardt, 478 N.W.2d 757, 761 (Minn. 1991).
Because the district court determined that the expert testimony was based on sufficient foundation and helpful to the jury, we cannot say the district court erred in allowing the testimony, even though it embraced the ultimate issue to be decided by the jury.