Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness Testimony Partially Allowed

Plaintiff sued defendant tire manufacturer after being involved in an accident.  Plaintiff hired an accident reconstruction expert witness to provide testimony.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude, which was granted in part and denied in part by the court.

Facts:  This case (Devon Davenport v. Goodyear Dunlop Tires North America – United States District Court – District of South Carolina – January 23rd, 2018) involves an car accident.  The Plaintiff argues that she sustained injuries while she was driving a Ford Explorer when the tread on one of the tires broke apart from the car, causing it to overturn.  The plaintiff sued the manufacturer of the tire.  The plaintiffs hired Dennis P. Carlson, Jr (accident reconstruction expert witness) to provide expert testimony.  The defendants filed a motion to exclude this expert witness testimony.

Discussion:  The defendants argue that Mr. Carlson’s expert witness testimony should be excluded because it is not reliable or relevant.  They purport that Mr. Carlson’s opinions are the result of unsupported assumptions and insufficient facts and data.

First, Mr. Carlson opined that the tire did not incorporate a full nylon cap ply and was thus defective.  The defendants argue that he improperly  relies on post-manufacture evidence an tires that are not similar to the tire at issues and that he does not back up his theory with data.  The court opined that Mr. Carlson in fact does use reliable and widely used methodologies in examining the tire.  Thus, the court ruled that Mr. Carlson’s methodology and nylon cap opinion are reliable and will be allowed.

Second, Mr. Carlson opined that the tire was defective due to a lack of adhesion and a defective bell joint.  The defendants argue that he did not provide any specific explanation of what aspect of the design affected the adhesion issue nor did he provide any evidence to back up his opinion.  The court opined that this part of the testimony will be allowed because his theories are supported by the evidence and are reliable.

Third, Mr. Carlson opined that the tire was defectively designed as it had an inadequate wedge.  The defendants allege that he does not express what is exactly defective about the wedge, does not provide any support for his opinion, and has not conducted any testing.  The court opined that Mr. Carslon did in fact provide explanations and support for his opinions on the inadequate wedge.  His opinions are supported by x-rays and photographs of the tire, his experience and knowledge in working on tire design, and a number of scientific reference articles cited in his report.

The court, however, did exclude Mr. Carlson’s opinion that the tire was not used in an overloaded or underinflated state because he does not have any evidence as to the weight of the occupants in the vehicle or the vehicle itself.  The court also excluded some of Mr. Carlson’s opinions that were deemed as speculation.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Mr. Dennis P. Carlson was granted in part and denied in part.