Biomechanics Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Part

Plaintiff sued defendant after falling from a defective chair.  The defendant hired a Biomechanics Expert Witness to provide testimony, which was challenged by the plaintiff.  The court opined that the testimony will be allowed in part.

Facts:  This case (O’NEAL v. NORFOLK SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY – United States District Court – Middle District of Georgia – July 6th, 2018) started after the plaintiff attempted to sit on a chair that then fell apart in the computer room at the defendant’s train depot.  The parties do not dispute that the chair was defective, but they do claim that the plaintiff did not fall in the way that he claims.  In order to prove their case, the defendants hired Biomechanics Expert Witness Laura Wojcik, Ph.D. to provide expert witness testimony on their behalf.  The plaintiff has filed a motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Wojcik.

Discussion:  Wojcik provides the following three opinions: 1) It is unlikely that the plaintiff could have fallen in the manner described; 2) It is unlikely that the plaintiff could have injured his lumbar discs in the falling event that is described; and 3) It would have been impossible for Mr. Smith (an alleged witness to the fall) to see the plaintiff from inside the locker room’s exterior door.  The court opines on each opinion.

First, the court opines that the first opinion above will be admissible.  The court opines that Wojcik is a mechanical engineer specializing in biomechanics and is qualified to testify about the manner in which the plaintiff describes his fall.  The court also states that biomechanics is beyond the understanding of an average lay person and can assist the trier of fact in this case.  In addition, the court opines that Wojcik relies on sufficient facts and data and that her methodology is reliable.  The court notes that Wojcik could have collected more data and facts, but any arguments like this go to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility.

The court opines, however, that the last two opinions will not be admissible under Daubert because they will not be helpful to the jury.  The second opinion about the lumbar disc is not relevant to any facts in the case as the plaintiff does not claim that he has a herniated disc or that he injured a disc.  The court also states that the defendant does not show what this opinion was offered to prove.

Last, the third opinion about about the fall will not assist the trier of fact because it does not go beyond the understanding of an average lay person.  The witness (Mr. Smith) can testify how fast he as walking into the room and the jury doesn’t need an expert to tell them whether the witness could see something when he was standing at a certain location.

Conclusion:  The expert witness testimony of Laura Wojcik, Ph.D. is denied in part and granted in part.