Biomechanics and Orthopedic Surgery Experts Challenged

Plaintiff sued Defendants for injuries suffered during an arrest.  Both parties called experts and both were subject to exclusion motions.

Facts:  This case (McKeon v. City of Morris – United States District Court – Northern District of Illinois – September 26th, 2016) involves injuries sustained during the arrest of the plaintiff (McKeon).  McKeon argues that the polices officers Burke and Seale fractured his left proximal tibia and left proximal fibula during an altercation.   McKeon argues that his injury was sustained when Seale gave him a martial arts kick to the inside of his leg.  In order to prove his case, McKeon hired Steven Rundell, Ph.D, a biomechanics expert witness.  The Defendants argue that there was no kick and that his injuries were the result of a takedown maneuver, which was necessary due to McKeon’s conduct at the time.  They have retained Mark Hutchinson, MD, an orthopedic surgery expert witness. Both parties have filed motions to exclude the other’s expert witness.

Discussion:  The Defendants offer three arguments to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Rundell.  First, they opine that Dr. Rundell is not qualified to provide expert witness testimony in this case as his field of expertise, biomechanical engineering, is about characterizing injuries, not diagnosing them.  They also argue that Dr. Rundell is not qualified because he has worked only on tibial plateau fractures. not medial tribal plateau fractures.  The court ruled that the field of biomechanics fulfills his role in the case as he was hired to interpret the diagnoses in order to opine on the mechanisms of McKeon’s injuries.  In addition, the defendants  demand too much specificity on qualifications.

Secondly, the Defendants state that Dr. Rundell’s report is unreliable.  They argue that Dr. Rundell’s review of scientific data was flawed because his report ignored a recent, contradictory article and the studies he relied on involved vehicle-pedestrian collisions.   The court disagreed.  Any arguments about the studies used can be addressed on cross examination.

Last, the Defendants argue that Dr. Rundell would not assist the trier of fact because his conclusion is not consistent with the facts of what happened.  The court disagreed, stating the his testimony would assist the trier of fact.

McKeon now looks to bar parts of Dr. Hutchinson’s testimony.  Dr. Hutchinson is a rebuttal expert to Dr. Rundell.  He looks to exclude part of the testimony where he discusses the qualifications of Dr. Rundell, wishing to dismiss those qualifications.  The court agreed, stating that Dr. Hutchinson is not qualified to discuss Dr. Rundell’s professional background or training and whether it renders him qualified or not qualified to offer an expert opinion in this case.

In addition, McKeon argues that Defendants have failed to demonstrate that Dr. Hutchinson is a qualified expert for the purposes of this case.  He states that Dr. Hutchinson qualify him to treat injuries, not their cause.  To answer this issue, the court turns to the methodology of Dr. Hutchinson and finds that he uses a valid methodology for this case and that his testimony would assist the trier of fact.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude Dr. Rundell’s testimony is denied.  The motion to exclude Dr. Hutchinson’s testimony is granted in part and denied in part.