The Kline School of Law hosted the second annual Battle of the Experts, a mock trial competition that focuses on the critical role of expert witnesses in litigation, Oct. 11-13.
Maryland University Carey School of Law won, and Cumberland School of Law took second place in the competition, which featured a fictitious medical malpractice case. The competition required students to litigate a wrongful death action against a hospital based on the hospital’s treatment of a 21-year old patient who passed away from the virus that causes chicken pox. The patient was misdiagnosed with the flu and didn’t receive life-saving medication until it was too late.
Both sides called expert witnesses, doctors in emergency medicine, to testify about the hospital’s treatment of the patient. The Kline School of Law partnered with nurse anesthetist programs at Drexel, Thomas Jefferson, Villanova and the University of Pennsylvania to portray expert witnesses. The competing teams received the contact information of their experts in advance of the competition, allowing the students to experience exactly what it’s like to consult with and prepare an expert witness for trial.
In the final round, Maryland—acting as the attorney for the plaintiff—elicited testimony from their expert witness that the treating doctor failed to follow the steps of a differential diagnosis when treating the deceased. Representing the defendant, Cumberland noted that the patient’s symptoms could have been indicative of hundreds of potential diseases, and that the symptoms were in fact consistent with the diagnosis of influenza, even if that turned out to be incorrect.
In addition to Maryland and Cumberland, 14 other law schools with strong mock trial records took part in the competition:
- Baylor University Law School
- University at Buffalo School of Law
- Florida State University
- Fordham University School of Law
- University of Illinois
- Loyola Marymount School of Law
- University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
- Pace University Elisabeth Haub School of Law
- St. John’s University School of Law
- St. Mary’s University School of Law
- Stetson University College of Law
- University of South Dakota School of Law
- Southern Illinois University Law School
- Villanova University School of Law
Villanova and St. Mary’s were semifinalists.
In addition to the emphasis on expert testimony, the competition featured a distinctive judging process in which each round of competition was presided over by a coach from a competing school. The teams were evaluated and scored by three leading trial attorneys from the area. Competition rules prohibited coaches from sharing insights with their own teams about rivals they may have observed. At the end of each round, the competitors were able to evaluate the coaches on how fairly they judged the round. Awards were presented to the top three coach-judges. Steven Patton, assistant district attorney with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and adjunct professor of trial advocacy at Villanova, was presented with the Best Judge Award.