U.S. Judge in Oklahoma Excludes Accident Reconstruction Expert in Fatal Truck-Tractor Crash


 

Accident Reconstruction Expert tractorCase:

Miguel Navarrete v. Michael C. Wiebe, et al., No. CIV–13–708–D, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma; July 25, 2014

Background:

In July 2012, Miguel Navarrete Jr. was a passenger in a pickup truck driven by a 13-year-old (A.N.). The truck was traveling westbound along a rural, unpaved road. At an uncontrolled intersection with another unpaved road, defendant Michael C. Wiebe was operating a self-propelled sprayer tractor headed southbound.

Plaintiffs allege that Wiebe failed to yield to the pickup, causing a collision that killed Navarrete. They also allege that Wiebe failed to operate his vehicle in a reasonable and safe manner by failing to keep a proper lookout, failing to properly control his vehicle, and operating it at a speed that was unsafe for road conditions.

Navarrete’s parents sued Wiebe, Jerry C. Wiebe, Wiebe Brothers LLC and Wiebe Farms, Inc.

Accident Reconstruction Expert:

Plaintiffs presented expert testimony from accident reconstruction expert Jim G. Jackson. He opined that:

  • A.N. should not have been driving.
  • A.N. should have yielded the right of way to the tractor.
  • Wiebe should have seen the pickup truck as it was approaching the county intersection.
  • Wiebe should have slowed down or stopped to avoid the collision by allowing the pickup truck to have the right of way.

 

Therefore, he said the evidence does not support the Wiebe defendants’ conclusion that the pickup was traveling at a high rate of speed. He based this on the distance the pickup traveled after impact, the impact damage to the truck, the lack of damage to the sprayer and the distance the sprayer traveled after impact.

Jackson concluded that both drivers neglected to approach the four-way intersection with caution.

The defendants moved to exclude Jackson’s testimony under Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (509 U.S. 579 [1993]).

Admissibility of Accident Reconstruction Expert:

Judge Timothy G. DeGiusti for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma found Jackson’s opinions are inadmissible. His opinion that a 13-year-old should not have been driving would be obvious to a layperson; his opinion that A.N. should have yielded the right of way states a conclusion that would be reached by anyone with knowledge of motor vehicle law; and his opinion that the tractor driver would have seen the pickup approaching would be reached by anyone reviewing the state police collision report. Thus, these opinions do not require specialized knowledge or expertise, the judge said, and they would not assist the jury.

The remainder of Jackson’s opinions may employ specialized knowledge or expertise, but because they are all stated as conclusions, without any bases being revealed, they lack sufficient facts or data to be reliable, the judge said.

“For example, the opinion expressed by Mr. Jackson regarding the pickup’s speed is purportedly based on distances traveled and damage to the vehicles. But Mr. Jackson does not cite any measurements, calculations, diagrams, methodology, or other support for his opinion,” the judge said.

The judge granted the defendants’ motion to exclude Jackson’s testimony.

About The Author

Kristin Casler is a legal writer and journalist who served as the editor for LexisNexis Mealey’s litigation news monitor for 17 years.