Chemistry Expert Witness Testimony Allowed

Defendants challenge the expert witness testimony of chemist.  The court disagreed, denying the motion.

Facts: This case (Hill v. Brass Eagle, Inc. et al – United States District Court – Northern District of Illinois – Eastern Division – August 29th, 2018) involves an eye injury sustained by a teenage boy during a game of paintball.  Plaintiff (Hill) was injured after taking off his protective facemask during the course of play.  He claims that he had to remove his mask because it had fogged up and it limited his vision.  The defendant sued the manufacturers of the mask, asserting claims of products liability, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, breach of implied, warranty of fitness, and breach of express warranty.  In order to prove his case, Hill hired Jason Babcock (chemistry expert witness) to examine the mask.  The defendants filed a motion to exclude the Babcock’s expert witness testimony based on qualification and reliability.

Discussion:  Babcock explained in his expert report that the lens used in the mask that Hill was wearing, a single pain polycarbonate lens, are hydrophobic, which will cause moisture to bead up, creating the fogging effect.  He opined that manufacturers usually treat paintball masks with anti-fog coatings by dipping the lenses in coating solutions.  Babcock ran two tests to evaluate the anti-fog properties of the lens, one of which came from the defendants own policies and procedures manual.  He also conducted a field test with the same masks used in the first test.  He then concluded that other mask lens designs and masks made by other manufacturers were more effective at preventing fog formation than the one manufactured by the defendant.

The defendants argue that Babcock’s testimony should be excluded because 1) he does not have the qualifications or experience to opine on the adequacy of the mask’s design and 2) his opinions are not based on reliable methodology.

First, the defendants state that Babcock is not an expert in protective headgear design, paintball, lens design, and anti-fog coatings or lenses.  The plaintiffs argue that Babcock’s Ph.D. in chemistry and his thirteen years of experience in researching polymers, metals, and ceramics qualifies him to offer an expert opinion in this case.  The court agreed with the plaintiff, stating that Babcock’s training as a chemist as well as his experience developing products qualify him to provide his expert opinions in this case.

The defendants also argue that Babcock’s testimony should be excluded because his opinions are not based on reliable methods and are not supported by peer-review.  The court disagreed, stating that the defendants have no offered a reason to believe that there would be peer-reviewed literature on the narrow subjects on which Babcock’s opinion’s are based.  In addition, Babcock’s opinions are testable because they are based on tests that he conducted.  Any disputes on the reliability of these tests can be substantiated or challenged by having the defendants conducting their own tests.  Also, any alleged flaws in Babcock’s methodology go to their weight, not their admissibility.

Conclusion:  The defendants motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Jason Babcock is denied.