Dept. of Human Services v. C. T.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Family Law
  • Date Filed: 11-01-2017
  • Case #: A164163
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Ortega, P.J. for the Court; Garret, J.; & Powers, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

For testimony to be considered helpful, under OEC 702, “the subject of the testimony must be within the expert’s field, the witness must be qualified, and the foundation for the opinion must intelligibly relate the testimony to the facts.” State v. Brown, 297 OR 404, 409, 687 P2d 751 (1984).

Petitioners, Father and child, “C”, appealed a juvenile court’s judgment asserting jurisdiction over Father's minor children. C assigned error to the trial court’s admittance of testimony from a clinical social worker (Steinhauser) and a DHS caseworker to establish that the grandfather posed a risk to him. On appeal, C argued that Steinhauser’s testimony that the grandfather abused child “S” constituted impermissible vouching and the testimony went beyond Steinhauser’s expertise. C also argued that the caseworker’s testimony was hearsay and erroneously testified as a witness. For testimony to be considered helpful, under OEC 702, “the subject of the testimony must be within the expert’s field, the witness must be qualified, and the foundation for the opinion must intelligibly relate the testimony to the facts.” State v. Brown, 297 OR 404, 409, 687 P2d 751 (1984). The Court of Appeals concluded that Steinhauser’s testimony was not speculative because it was based on extensive training, experience, and expertise. The Court also found that the DHS caseworker’s hearsay testimony was harmless because there was little likelihood that the factfinder relied on it when reaching its judgment. Accordingly, the Court determined that the juvenile court did not err in allowing the challenged testimonies into evidence. Jurisdictional judgments reversed and remanded for entry of judgment establishing dependency jurisdiction based on allegations other than substance abuse; otherwise affirmed. 

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