Mechanical Engineering Expert Witness Excluded

Plaintiff sued defendant after she was injured when she fell from a shelving unit manufactured by the defendant.  Plaintiff hired a Mechanical Engineering Expert Witness to provide expert witness testimony,  This testimony was challenged by the defendant and was granted by the court.

Facts:  This case (Winkler et al v. Madix, Inc. – United States District Court – Northern District of Illinois – September 7th, 2018) involves a product liability claim.  The plaintiff alleges that she was injured when she fell from a shelving unit manufacturing by the defendant during her shift at a Walgreen’s store where she was employed.  She has sued on a strict products liability claim.  The plaintiff has hired Mechanical Engineering Expert Witness Kevin Smith, to provide expert witness testimony on her behalf.  The defendant challenges the testimony of the expert witness.

Discussion: Smith comes to three conclusions in his report.  First, the storage units have a design defect as they fail to secure the shelves to the deck supports.  Second, the storage units did not contain a warning label advising employees of the possibility that the shelves would dislodge.  Third, the storage units were defective as they did not contain a warning label which identified the hazard of a fall when climbing the racks.

The defendant argues that Smith is not qualified to provide his expert witness in this case.  The court opines that Smith is a mechanical engineer licensed in Illinois.  In his deposition, Mr. Smith admitted that he has never given an opinion relating that heavy-duty shelving systems were unreasonably dangerous.  In addition, he has never before given on opinion as to whether a warning not to climb was necessary.  The court continues by stating that Smith serves as Chairman of Task Force to study fall protection, which, along with his current and prior employment record, render him qualified to provide an opinion in this case.

The defendant also argues that Smith does not employ a reliable methodology to support his opinions as he did not test any alternative designs.  The court opines that Smith has never opined as an expert in the safe design and securements of the grids of a storage unity, has no prior experience analyzing the defendant’s storage units, and he did not inspect or experiment on the particular storage unit in question.  In addition, he did not research the methodology that the defendant uses.   The court also states that his sole research was to do a Google search of potential warning labels that he believed could have been used on the storage units.

In addition, Smith admits that he did not create any type of mockup in which his alternative design was utilized and his report does not cite to any Daubert factors to support his ultimate conclusions.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Kevin Smith is granted.