Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness Allowed in Tractor Trailer Crash Case

Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness was allowed to provide testimony despite defendant’s argument that he did not extract the data himself.

Facts:  This case (Byrd v. P&S Transportation, Inc. et al – United States District Court – Middle District of Louisiana – October 1st, 2018) involves a motor vehicle accident involving a car and a tractor-trailer rig.  The plaintiff alleges that the defendant’s tractor-trailer rear-ended him while driving in the same direction on Interstate Highway 10 in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana.  The car was owned by the passenger of the vehicle.  The defendant hired Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness Michael S. Gillen to provide testimony on his behalf.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude the expert witness from testifying.

Discussion:  The plaintiff wishes to exclude Gillen’s testimony for five reasons:  1)  Gillen is not qualified to testify regarding G forces; 2) Gillen refers to a book which is outside his expertise; 3) Gillen’s opinions based on the Crash Data Retrieval (CDR) are not based on scientific and technical training; 4) The CDR data is unreliable; and 5) Gillen’s opinion is directly contradicted by the plaintiff and the police investigation.

The court opines that the first two arguments are without merit.  The court states that is a routine part of the work of an accident reconstruction expert to calculate the speeds of vehicles and to use physics in their calculations and analysis.  The court opines that it is not an issue that Gillen does not have a degree in mathematics or physics as expertise can be cased on experience in any given field.  In addition, the court opines that it is common for experts to rely on other types of information, which, in this case is “The Physics Handbook”.  Since the plaintiff does not challenge the authoritative nature of the information in the book, the court rejects the second argument.

The plaintiff then states that Gillen should not be allowed to rely on the CDR data because he did not extract the data himself and that the CDR data itself is unreliable.  The court rules that it is common practice for experts to rely on data developed by other if it it ordinarily used by experts in that field.  The defendants also state that they were denied a request to extract the data from the CDR, which is not refuted by the plaintiff.

Regarding the possible unreliability of the CDR data, the court notes that the plaintiff’s attached is not supported by anything other than the arguments.  In addition, the court states that these types of arguments go to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility.

Conclusion: The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Michael S. Gillen is denied.