Law School Case Brief
Hattori v. Peairs - 95-0144 ( La. App. 1 Cir 10/06/95), 662 So. 2d 509
The decision of whether to accept a witness as an expert in a trial is one left to the "much discretion" of the trial court, and the decision reached by the trial judge will not be disturbed on appeal unless it is clearly erroneous and involves a misunderstanding of law.
A 16-year old Japanese exchange student and the student with whom he was staying were planning to attend a Halloween party, but they accidentally went to the wrong address. The homeowner claimed that he was frightened by the students, and he shot and killed the exchange student. The parents were awarded $635,000 in damages in the wrongful death and survival action that they brought against defendant homeowners and their insurer. Defendants appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in refusing to admit the testimony of their proferred expert in the use of deadly force.
Did the trial court abuse its discretion in refusing to admit the testimony of an expert witness proffered by Defendant homeowners?
The appellate court held that the trial court acted within its discretion. The court also found that at the time the homeowner pulled the trigger, he clearly intended to harm the exchange student in the mistaken belief that he was an intruder, but the homeowner's mistake was no defense. Since the homeowner's act was so extreme and intentional, the trial court was not required to inquire whether there was any fault on behalf of the exchange student. Finally, the award was well within the guidelines of prior wrongful death awards.
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