Biomechanics Expert Witness Testimony Not Excluded

Plaintiff filed sued vehicle manufacturer after decedent died after a crash.  Plaintiff hired a biomechanics expert witness to provide testimony.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude expert from testifying, which was denied by the court.

Facts:  This case (Zoch v. Daimler, AG et al – United States District Court – Eastern District of Texas – September 25th, 2018) involves a products liability claim.  The case arises from the alleged failure of the driver’s seat in the decedent’s vehicle during a rear-end collision.  After the collision, the decedent suffered a head injury and later died.  The plaintiff subsequently filed suit against the manufacturer of the vehicle.  The plaintiff hired Michelle Hoffman (biomechanics expert witness) to provide expert witness testimony on his behalf.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert witness testimony.

Discussion: Ms. Hoffman was hired to provide testimony regarding the incident, body kinematics of the occupants of the vehicle during the incident, the nature of the injuries, the forces necessary to produce those injuries and the proximate causes of these injuries.  In her report, Ms. Hoffman discusses a “surrogate inspection” she conducted of the vehicle in question. which consists of placing a surrogate in the driver’s seat of the vehicle.

The defendants argue that Ms. Hoffman’s opinions that rely on surrogate inspection should be excluded because it is too disconnected from the subject crash to be reliable.  They specifically argue that surrogate’s weight and height are not the same as the decedent’s weight and height and that Ms. Hoffman’s estimates about the position of the seat, seat belt, and surrogate are not reliable.

The defendants challenge the specific bases and sources employed by Ms. Hoffman.  Ms. Hoffman does state in her report that the surrogate study was not intended to be an exact recreation of the decedent’s body kinematics.  Thus, the court opines that the height and weight difference between the surrogate and the decedent would stop the jury from getting a genera; idea of the decedent’s body movement from the surrogate inspection.  The court adds that this type of argument goes to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility and that nothing will prevent the defendants from discrediting the surrogate inspection during cross-examination.

The court also notes that Ms. Hoffman’s estimates about the position of the driver’s seat, seat belt, and surrogate in the vehicle does not appear to be random or reliable.  The court continues by stating that Ms. Hoffman positioned the driver’s seat, seat belt, and surrogate in the arrangement she believed represented the situation at the time of the incident.

Conclusion:  The motion to dismiss the expert witness testimony of Michelle Hoffman is denied.