Post Trial Motion Not Necessary To Preserve Issue Of Expert Testimony For Appeal In Jury Case

Stephen Wartalski, a pipefitter, was injured while doing construction work at a Panera restaurant. He claimed that a glass shield over a temporary lighting fixture broke, exposing him to ultraviolet radiation. The radiation, he said, caused facial contractions and traumatic dystonia.

Wartalski sued the construction contractors for negligence, and a jury awarded him $975,700. The contractors appealed. They argued that Wartalski’s expert witnesses should not have been allowed to testify at the trial because their opinions were not generally accepted.

Wartalski countered that the contractors waived their argument because they did not first raise it in a post trial motion. He pointed to Section 2-1202(b) of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, which requires a party to make a motion to the trial court for relief following a jury verdict.

The First District Illinois Appellate Court rejected Wartalski’s argument. The ruling that allowed the expert testimony was made by the judge, not a jury, so the post trial motion was not necessary to preserve the question for appeal or to establish appellate jurisdiction. “Wartalski’s reliance on section 2-1202 is in error; section 2-1202 does not apply to nonjury matters such as Frye [expert evidence] rulings, nor does section 2-1202 establish or limit the appellate court’s jurisdiction. No postjudgment motion is required to preserve matters determined without a jury for review.”

In the end, the appellate court ruled that the expert evidence was neither new nor novel, so the experts could testify. Wartalski’s judgment was affirmed. Read the whole case, Wartalski v. JSB Construction and Consulting, Nos. 1-07-0954, 1-07-0955 (7/10/08), by clicking here.