Automotive Engineering Expert Witness Partially Allowed

Plaintiff filed suit after a car in which he was a passenger rolled over, causing injury.  Plaintiff hired an automotive engineering expert witness to provide testimony, and the defendants filed a motion to exclude.  The court partially denied and partially granted the motion.

Facts:  This case (Pertile et al v. General Motors, LLC et al – United States District Court – District of Colorado – September 15th, 2015) was commenced after a rollover accident in which the Plaintiff (Pertile) was a passenger in a pickup truck manufactured by General Motors.  Mr. Pertile, badly injured, filed suit against General Motors, TRW Vehicle Safety Systems, and  Kelsey-Hayes Company.  To help prove his claims, the Plaintiffs hired automotive engineering expert witness, Steven Loudon to provide testimony.  The Defendants Kelsey-Hayes and General Motors filed motions to exclude this testimony.

Discussion:  Mr. Loudon was hired to testify as an expert in the field of Electronic Stability Control (ESC) Systems, the evaluation of the design of these systems, alternative designs, and the hardware and software that goes into automobile control systems.  In the present case, Mr. Loudon opined that the Plaintiff’s vehicle experienced ESC disabling faults, which was a contributing factor to the rollover of the vehicle.

The Defendants do not challenge the credentials of Mr. Loudon.  Nor do they challenge the admissibility of his opinions on the effectiveness of ESC systems generally, that the vehicle complied with federal standards, or that the Plaintiff would have ignored the systems warning lights after illuminated intermittently over a certain period of time.

Specifically, Kelsey-Hayes filed a motion to exclude Mr. Loudon’s opinions regarding a “diagnostic strategy” defect in the ESC system.  They argue that this opinion is not supported by any data and should not be admitted.  The court partly agreed with the Defendant’s by opining that the Plaintiff’s do not point to any data or evidence that states how this diagnostic strategy was ill-conceived.   In addition, the court opined that the Plaintiff’s did not disclose what data or methodology would underlie such an opinion.  Thus, the motion by Kelsey-Hayes to exclude testimony regarding a defect in the “diagnostic strategy” should be granted in part.

GM Also moves to exclude parts of Mr. Loudon’s opinion, specifically his opinion that the ESC system is defective due to disabling faults.  GM argues that this opinion is not supported by data or facts.  The court partially agreed with GM in this piece by opining that Mr. Loudon may explain his review of the ESC system’s fault codes, but he will not be allowed to opine that the number of fault codes was excessive or that the system was dangerous as a result.

Last, both GM and Kelsey-Hayes seek to exclude Mr. Loudon’s opinion that a crash would have been prevented if the ESC system would have been functioning properly.  They argue that he does not have a reliable basis or methodology to support his opinion.  The court again, partially agreed, stating that Mr. Loudon that functioning system would have assisted the driver in regaining control of the car, but he is not allowed to opine that a ESC that was functioning would definitely have prevented the loss of control of the car.

Conclusion:  The motions to exclude the expert witness testimony of Steven Loudon is partially granted and partially denied.