Mechanical Engineering and Professional Engineering Expert Witnesses Allowed

Plaintiff sued defendant after falling off a treestand manufactured by defendant.  The plaintiff hired a Mechanical Engineering and Professional Engineering Expert Witness to provide testimony, to which the defendant filed a motion to exclude.  The motion was denied by the court.

Facts: This case (James Conner v. W W Industrial Corp, et al – United States District Court – Eastern District of Missouri – June 7th, 2018) involves a product liability claim.  The plaintiff alleges that he fell off a treestand after he climbed a ladder to secure the bench to a tree.  While he stood on the ladder, the rails bent at the rail joints and the plaintiff fell and was injured.  The plaintiff hired Mechanical Engineering Expert Witness Clifford C. Bigelow and Professional Engineering Expert Witness Mark Ezra to provide testimony on his behalf.  The defendant subsequently filed motions to exclude the expert witness testimony of Bigelow and Ezra.

Discussion: Bigelow’s report claims that the rail’s thickness is less than was is specified in the model ladders.  Ezra’s report states that the plaintiff’s fall was a result of the defendant’s failure to warn and instruct the defendant.  In addition, Ezra’s report indicated that the instruction manual contained misleading diagrams and that the warnings were ambiguous.

The defendants argue that Bigelow’s report is unreliable because he provides no opinion as to how the ladder rail strength due to the thickness of the accident ladder’s rails.  They also argue that Bigelow did not perform tests or calculations and offered no methodology to support his opinions.  Last, they state that Bigelow did not take any measurements of the ladder rails.  The defendants also argue that Ezra’s opinions should be excluded because he did not test his “alternative warning” theory and that his opinion that the plaintiff’s fall is related to the defendants failure to instruct is contradicted by James’s testimony.

The court opines that the motions to exclude are denied.  First, the court notes that Bigelow’s and Ezra’s opinions are based on sufficient facts or data and that their testimony is the product of reliable methods and principles.  The court opines that Bigelow tested on the model STLS-40.  In addition, the court opines that Ezra has supported that mis-assembly was foreseeable, based on the instructions provided.  Also, the court opines that Ezra has provided ample foundation that some modifications to the treestand would have minimized any possible miss-assembly.

Last, the court notes that Ezra’s alleged failure to test his theories goes to the weight of the testimony, not the admissibility.  Last, the court states that Ezrae;s opinion ill aid the fact finder and that any deficiencies in his opinion can be addressed at cross-examination.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimonies of Clifford C. Bigelow and Mark Ezra is denied.

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