Can An Accident Reconstruction Expert’s Opinions Rely On Another Expert’s Test Results? Kentucky District Court Says Yes


Accident Reconstruction Expert

Court: United State District Court for Western District of Kentucky, Louisville Division
Jurisdiction: Federal
Case Name: Jackson v. E-Z-Go Div. of Textron, INC.
Citation: 326 F. Supp 3d 375

Facts

On July 25, 2010, an E-Z-Go personnel carrier vehicle rolled over resulting in the death of 15-year-old Jordan Kori Jackson, one of the passengers. The parents of the deceased sued the manufacturers alleging design defects, failure to warn, and breach of express and implied warranties. The vehicle was owned by the parents of Jordan’s friend, Andrew. Jordan’s parents also sued Andrew’s parents alleging negligence for allowing their then-underage son and others to operate the vehicle on the day of the accident.

Both parties retained their respective expert witnesses and brought pre-trial motions to exclude the testimony of several opposing experts under Daubert and its progeny. However, the court’s primary ruling in the order was with respect to the plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert witness.

The Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness

The plaintiff’s expert was a consulting engineer who specialized in accident reconstruction and safety analysis, electrical design safety and failure analysis, fire cause and origin, and vehicular traffic accidents.

In forming his opinions, the expert relied heavily on patents from 1980 and 1988 as well as the plaintiff’s other accident reconstruction expert’s opinions. The expert opined that, based on Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) data, the 8.9% of personnel carrier and golf cart-related injuries involving rollovers between 1991 and 1993 “must have involved many E-Z-GO products”.

The defendants moved to exclude his testimony arguing that he was neither qualified to offer the opinions included in his report nor did he use any sufficiently reliable principles and methods in reaching those opinions.

Held

The defendant’s motion to exclude the testimony of the plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert was granted in part and denied in part.

The court found that the expert’s experience in the field of electrical engineering was extensive, and that his knowledge and experience qualified him to offer opinions, even though he didn’t have any specific experience with such technology. With respect to the expert’s opinion based on injuries in rollover accidents between 1991 and 1993, the court found the expert was unclear as to where these accidents had occurred, what company manufactured the vehicles, what model of vehicles were involved, what the weather conditions were, what the speed was, who was driving, and so on and hence this portion of defendant’s motion was granted.

With regard to the expert’s reliance on the other plaintiff expert’s opinion, the court held it to be permissible. Although an expert “may not adopt another expert’s opinions wholesale,” Siegel v. Fisher & Paykel Appliances Holdings Ltd., No. 3:08CV-429-JDM, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111578, pursuant to “Rule 703, an expert’s testimony may be formulated by the use of the facts, data, and conclusions of other experts.” Asad v. Cont’l Airlines, Inc., 314 F. Supp. 2d 726, 740. It was also determined that the expert’s reliance on patents from 1980 and 1988 was insufficient as he had not applied any expertise of his to interpret the complex language of the patent.

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