Argued: February 14, 2019
from the Marion Superior Court No. 49D14-1602-CT-7366 The
Honorable James B. Osborn, Judge
Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals No.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Brian J. Paul Harmony A. Mappes Jason
M. Rauch Faegre Baker Daniels LLP Indianapolis, Indiana
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE Ronald S. Todd Ronald S. Todd, P.C.
ATTORNEYS FOR AMICUS CURIAE INDIANA TRIAL LAWYERS ASSOCIATION
Daniel J. Buba Thomas C. Doehrman Doehrman•Buba
case presents an issue of first impression for this Court:
may a party use evidence of an expert witness's
professional disciplinary history to challenge the
expert's credibility? Here, an expert-doctor testified
that the plaintiff suffered permanent injury from an auto
accident. And the defendant was not permitted to introduce
evidence that the expert's medical license had previously
been on probation or evidence of the reasons underlying the
expert's past professional discipline.
we hold that both types of evidence-an expert witness's
professional-licensure status and the reasons for
professional discipline- may be admissible to challenge the
expert's credibility. Under the facts of this case, the
trial court abused its discretion when it excluded evidence
that the expert-doctor's medical license had been on
probation-though the error was harmless. And the trial court
properly excluded evidence of the reasons for the
doctor's professional discipline, as that evidence was
inadmissible under certain evidentiary rules. We thus affirm
the jury's verdict in the plaintiff's favor.
and Procedural History
clear, dry afternoon, Dawn Manning was waiting at a stop sign
in her vehicle when she was rear-ended by Levetta Tunstall.
Manning pulled over and immediately began experiencing head
and neck pain. Although she declined an ambulance, Manning
later went to the emergency room- leaving the hospital that
evening with a neck brace and pain medication.
the next several months, Manning tried various treatments for
her ongoing pain. Months of twice-weekly chiropractor
appointments yielded little improvement, so Manning stopped
going and turned to other doctors. A family doctor's
x-rays, and a spine specialist's MRIs, of her spine came
back normal. The spine specialist offered injections, but
Manning declined them because they could be ongoing for the
rest of her life.
nearly a year after the accident, Manning went to see Dr.
Stephen Paschall. Manning reported a constant ache in her
neck and regular back spasms that lasted up to thirty
seconds. Dr. Paschall observed a reduced range of motion in
Manning's cervical spine and took x-rays that indicated a
significant loss of motion segment integrity in her spine.
Based on the medical exam, the doctor concluded that Manning
had reached "maximum medical improvement" with 28%
impairment of her whole body, and that the injury resulted
from the auto accident.
sued Tunstall. Before trial, Manning's counsel deposed
Dr. Paschall. Toward the end, Tunstall's counsel asked
the doctor about his professional disciplinary
history-starting with whether his license had ever been on
probation, revoked, or suspended.
Paschall admitted that his medical license had previously
been on probation, but he would not answer questions about
reasons underlying his past professional discipline.
before trial, Tunstall moved to compel Dr. Paschall to answer
those unanswered deposition questions and reasonable
follow-up questions. The trial court denied Tunstall's
motion, reasoning that Dr. Paschall's professional
disciplinary history was not relevant because his medical
license was in good standing at the time of trial.
Ultimately, this meant the trial court would not admit any
evidence about Dr. Paschall's licensure probation or the
reasons for his past professional discipline.
jury trial, Manning testified-as did her parents, best
friend, and boyfriend-about the negative changes in her
disposition and lifestyle since the accident. The only
medical testimony Manning presented was from Dr.
Paschall's deposition. Tunstall, on the other hand,
called two expert witnesses, both of whom disagreed with Dr.
Paschall's assessment of Manning's condition.
end, the jury found in Manning's favor and awarded $1.3
million in damages.
appealed, arguing in part that the trial court abused its
discretion by not allowing the jury to hear testimony that
Dr. Paschall's license was, at one time, placed on
probation and testimony about the reasons for the
doctor's past professional discipline. A split panel of
the Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed the jury's
verdict. Tunstall v. Manning, 107 N.E.3d
1093, 1098-99, 1102 (Ind.Ct.App. 2018). Judge Baker
dissented, believing that excluding evidence of Dr.
Paschall's professional disciplinary history was
reversible error. Id. at 1102-03 (Baker, J.,
petitioned for transfer, which we granted, vacating the Court
of Appeals opinion. Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A).
case involves the admissibility of two related, but distinct,
types of evidence to impeach an expert witness. The first is
evidence of an expert witness's professional licensure
status-that is, evidence that an expert's professional
license has ever been, or is currently, limited in some way.
The second is evidence of the reasons for past professional
the trial court excluded both types of evidence. To the
extent the court's ruling depended on a legal
question-whether certain evidence is generally admissible for
impeachment-we review the ruling de novo. See Fairbanks
v. State, 119 N.E.3d 564, 567 (Ind. 2019). But to the