Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness Testimony Excluded in Motor Vehicle Litigation

Plaintiff filed suit against defendant after a motor vehicle accident.  Plaintiff hired a Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness to provide expert testimony. Defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.  The court granted the motion.

Facts: This case (Beard v. Horwedel et al – United States District Court – Northern District of California – January 18th, 2019) involves a motor vehicle accident between the plaintiff and a U.S. Postal Service vehicle.  The plaintiff has hired Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness Lawrence Nordhoff, Jr to provide testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion: The plaintiff hired Mr. Nordhoff to provide opinions about the reasonableness of the plaintiff’s medical bills for services she received in connection with her injuries.  In addition, Mr. Nordhoff was also asked to look at the reasonable medical future costs relating to a 2-level lumbar fusion surgery.  Mr. Nordhoff’s report provides cost ranges for fusion surgery in the bay area that he found by conducting Google searches.  In his deposition, Mr. Nordhoff testified that these websites do not address 2-level fusion and he could not find any website that addressed the costs of 2-level fusion.  He further testified that he did not use these websites before, did not know how each gets his data, could not remember how he had searched or whether his search results were specific to Northern California and did not know if either website was reliable.

Also, Mr. Nordhoff’s report also provides a list of fees, which corresponds to certain billing codes that he obtained by calling the Sutter Health billing department.  While Mr. Nordhoff provides definitions for all of the billing codes, he does not state in his report how he decided which billing codes to include.  Mr. Nordhoff states that the codes were provided to him by plaintiff’s counsel, he could not say for sure how plaintiff’s counsel came up with the list.  Also, he testified that he used Sutter’s billing amounts because their billing department was more cooperative and that he tried to get the same information from other entities without any success.

The court opines that Mr. Nordhoff has not provided any basis from which to conclude that the information he found on these websites is reliable, that these websites are generally relied upon in his field, or that his search methodology was sound.  Thus, the court states that these costs do not meet the “scientific information” requirement.  In addition, the costs ranges do not satisfy the relevance requirement.  In addition, the extremely broad range that Mr. Nordhoff presents makes these opinions unhelpful to the trier of fact.

In addition, the court opines that the costs that Mr. Nordhoff obtained from Sutter do not satisfy the requirements under Daubert.  First, there is nothing that qualifies the information he obtained from Sutter as “scientific knowledge”

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Lawrence Nordhoff is granted.