Mechanical Engineering Expert Witness Excluded in Products Liability Case

Plaintiff filed a products liability lawsuit against the manufacturer and installer of an Advanced Electronic Vehicle Interface Technology driving system.  The plaintiff hired a mechanical engineering expert witness to assist in a providing causation testimony.  The defendant filed a motion to exclude.  The district court excluded the testimony and the appeals court affirmed the opinion.

Facts:  This case (John T. Cady v. Ride-away Handicap Equipment Corporation, et. al – United States Court of Appeals For The Fourth Circuit – July 17th, 2017) is an appeal from a district court opinion excluding the testimony of Plaintiff’s (Cady) mechanical engineering expert witness, Mark Ezra, and subsequently granting judgment in favor of the defendants.  Cady’s lawsuit claims that the manufacturer and installer of an AEVIT (“Advanced Electronic Vehicle Interface Technology”) driving system in his car were at fault for an accident that occurred while he was driving.  AEVIT was installed in Cady’s car so that his quadriplegic son could drive the car as well. Cady’s alleged claims include strict products liability, negligent design, manufacture and installation, negligent failure to warn, breach of express warranty, as well as many others.  The defendants filed a motion to exclude the expert testimony.  The district court granted the motion as well as judgment for the defendant.  Cady appeals.

Discussion:  Ezra opined that the accident was caused by a mechanical failure to the brakes.  He stated that the brakes were defectively installed, resulting in the brake roller moving out of place.  His opinions relied on his inspections of the van and logged data from the AEVIT.  The district court opined that Mr. Ezra does have specialized knowledge on this issue to testify on causation, he did not enough facts or data to support his testimony and that his testimony was not reliable.

The present court affirms the opinion of the district court excluding Ezra’s testimony.  The appeals court noted that Ezra omitted certain information from his testimony.  First, he did not take into account the presence of a white residue that was found on the bake pas when it was inspected after the crash.  In addition, Ezra could not explain why the roller arm fell off and under the brake pedal prior to the accident and not during the last two years of the vehicle’s operation.  Ezra did not test of measure the road load that a van installed with AEVIT would endure, nor did he identify any forces that would apply to the vehicle under certain circumstances.

In addition, the district court noted that Ezra’s interpretation of the AEVIT data was suspicious.  The appeals court agreed, stating that it was plausible that human error resulted in the lack of effective braking. The court stated that Ezra knew of Cady did not have much in the way of AEVIT training, but did not consider that this was a possible reason for the collision.

Conclusion:  The United States district court’s exclusion of expert witness testimony of Mark Ezra is affirmed.