Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness Allowed in Part

Plaintiff sued defendants after a crash between a tractor-trailer and a car.  The plaintiff hired an Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness to provide testimony.  The defendant filed a motion to exclude.  The court granted the motion in part and denied it in part.

Facts:  This case (Nestor v. Everlast Roofing, et al. – United States District Court – Southern District of Ohio – October 4th, 2018) involves a wrongful death claim.  The case was filed by the states of two teenage siblings who died in a car crash.  The plaintiffs allege that the driver of a tractor-trailer was negligent when the decedents’ vehicle collided with his vehicle.  In addition, they also claim that defendant Everlast Roofing was contributorily negligent.  The plaintiff has hired Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness Stephen Ashton to provide testimony on their behalf.  The defendants have filed a motion to exclude Ashton from testifying.

Discussion: The defendants argue that certain portions of Ashton’s testimony should be excluded based on speculation or that they go beyond the scope of his expertise.  They argue that the following opinions should be excluded:  1) Hudson did not perceive the tractor-trailer because the headlights were positioned in the southbound lane; 2) Hudson did not have an expectation that the tractor-trailer would be a rural road; 3) The tractor-trailer  was not visible due to its lack of reflectivity and conspicuity; and 4) That a normal person would be pulling such a tractor-trailer on a dark rural road.

The defendants argue that Ashton only speculates about what Hudson did or did not perceive at the time of the accident.  They point to Ashton’s deposition  where he said “we will never know what went through Ashton’s mind when he died.  Thus, this part of the defendants’ motion is granted.

The defendants also argue that Ashton’s second opinion should be excluded because it lacks foundation.  They argue that this is also presumes to know what was going through Hudson’s mind on the night of the accident. Ashton states that this opinion is based on his own life experience on rural county roads.  The defendants argue that this is just Ashton’s personal belief and should not be accepted as expert testimony.  The court again opines that this part of the motion to exclude should be granted.

The defendants also argue that Ashton is not qualified to form an opinion about the reflectivity and conspicuity of the tractor-trailer.  In addition, they claim that Ashton’s opinion on light reflectivity have not been tested and are not verifiable.  The court opines that it is not persuaded that Ashton lacks the experience to render an opinion on these issues and therefore denies this part of the motion.

Last, the court grants the part of the motion that argues to exclude Ashton’s opinion on what a “reasonable, prudent person” would have done as it is a matter of law on which only the judge may instruct the jury.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert opinion of Stephen Ashton is granted in part and denied in part