Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ingram v. McCuiston case brief

Ingram v. McCuiston case brief summary
134 S.E.2d 705 (N.C. 1964)

Defendants, a minor driver and her mother, appealed a ruling of the Regular Civil "B" Session of Mecklenburg (North Carolina), which overruled defendants' objections to a six-page hypothetical question propounded by plaintiff injured person to an orthopedic surgeon, and to a question that incorporated the hypothetical question by reference. Defendants contended on appeal that the ruling was prejudicial.

Plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident with defendant minor driver. In an attempt to establish the cause of plaintiff's injuries to her neck and spine, her counsel propounded the hypothetical question to the orthopedic surgeon . The surgeon answered that in his opinion, the collision might have produced the injuries. The trial court overruled defendants' objections to the questions.


  • On appeal, the court found no evidence to support the facts that had been assumed in the hypothetical question. 
  • Noting that the question was based in part on the opinion of a psychiatrist, the court sustained the objections to both questions.
  • The hypothetical question included a reference to a psychiatrist's diagnosis of plaintiff's condition as a depressive reaction. 
  • The court held that the inclusion of the reference violated the rule that the opinion of an expert witness may not have been predicated upon the opinions or inferences of other witnesses, whether expert or lay, unless their testimony was put to him hypothetically as an assumed fact. 
  • The reference to plaintiff's mental health had no bearing on the question of whether the collision might have caused the neck and spine injuries.
The court sustained defendants' assignments of error based on their objections to the hypothetical questions. The court ordered a new trial.

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