Cross-Examination of the Vocational Rehabilitation Expert By Frank Scahill
Dr. Lynn Mizzy Jonas is a plaintiff’s Vocational Rehabilitation Expert with impressive credentials. Normally the defense calls a Vocational Rehabilitation Expert as a witness to counter the Plaintiff’s claims of inability to obtain gainful employment. In a case where the Plaintiff claims total disability, the Plaintiff may call an expert to the stand to counter the expected testimony of the defendant’s expert and convince the jury that the Plaintiff is, in fact, totally disabled and an award for future lost earning, up to the plaintiff’s work life expectancy, is appropriate. What can the defense attorney do to cross-examine this witness?
I have attached the trial transcript of Dr. Jonas from this month’s trial. In a case where the Plaintiff is a skilled laborer, performing manual labor that requires a certain skill set, the cross-examination should begin with a discussion of the Plaintiff’s knowledge, skill and training. You do not need to attack the expert, but rather, convince the jury that Mr. Plaintiff has skills and knowledge that are transferable to other work, perhaps sedentary, and that he is by no means “disabled” as the expert alleges. If the Plaintiff works for a large company, discuss the regulations, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which require a company in excess of 50 employees to make reasonable accommodations for a disabled worker. Here, the Plaintiff was a Verizon Employee. On cross-examination, we were able to have the Plaintiff’s own expert concede, that Verizon was annually awarded recognition for outreach and employment of “disabled” individuals. Total disability as a conceptual label can be effectively debunked. You do not need to paint the Plaintiff as a malingerer. Rather, if the jury believes the Plaintiff fails to accept his current status and use the gifts and skills he has to find work, you have done your job on cross. You can weave this issue into the theme you develop for the trial, namely, the Plaintiff’s claims are exaggerated and false. Presenting an expert that will testify that the Plaintiff is “totally disabled” can backfire. I have attached the direct and cross examination of this witness for illustration. Read the transcript here.