Can a ''Rocky'' State Trooper Testify As An Expert Witness ?

In Sciarrilla v. Osborne, 946 S.W.2d 919 (Tex. App.-Beaumont 1997, pet. denied), the trial court was faced with a complaint that a DPS trooper who had been on the job only five months could not qualify as an expert witness. The court nevertheless permitted the trooper to testify, and the court of appeals found that the trial court had not abused its discretion because the trooper had attended a specialized accident reconstruction school. Id. at 922-923. Whether a witness is qualified to offer expert testimony is a matter committed to the trial court's discretion. United Blood Services Inc. v. Longoria, 938 S.W.2d 29, 31 (Tex. 1997). The trial court must determine if the putative expert has "knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education" that would "assist the trier of fact." See TEX. R. EVID. 702. The burden of establishing an expert's qualifications is on the offering party; that party must establish that the expert's expertise goes to the very matter on which he or she is to give an opinion. Broders v. Heise, 924 S.W.2d 148, 153 (Tex. 1996). We gauge abuse of discretion by whether the trial court acted without reference to any guiding rules or principles. E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. v. Robinson, 923 S.W.2d 549, 558 (Tex. 1995).