Mechanical Engineering Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Ford Battery Design Defect Case

Summary: Mechanical Engineering Expert Witness allowed to testify even though the defendant argued that his expert opinion should be excluded because he did not conduct an accident reconstruction report.

Facts:  This case (Hix-Hernandez v. Ford Motor Co. – United States District Court – Western District of Texas – July 25, 2022) involves a products-liability claim against Ford Motor Company.  The plaintiff, Staci Hix-Hernandez, claims that she was injured when a battery dislodged from an Ford F-150 truck after it collided with a tractor-trailer.  Hix Hernandez says that the battery became airborne and crashed through her windshield and hit her in the face.  She states that she sustained numerous injuries due to the accident including facial fractures, chemical burns to her face, as well as physical and emotional trauma.  Hix-Hernandez filed suit against Ford Motor, claiming that the battery was defectively secured in the compartment of the F-150 and that the design of the battery restraint in the F-150 was flawed.  Hix-Hernandez hired Mechanical Engineering Expert Witness Jahan Rasty, Ph.D to provide expert witness testimony in this case.  Ford has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  Ford claims that Dr. Rasty’s expert witness testimony should be excluded because it is unreliable, is not based on sufficient data or facts, and would not be of assistance to the jury.  Ford also states that Dr. Ratsy’s expert witness testimony should be excluded because he didn’t conduct an accident reconstruction and he only relied on his laboratory tests to compile his opinions.

The court states that Ratsy was hired as a design defect expert and not one that performs accident reconstruction.  The court also notes that Ford did not point to any caselaw which would require and design defect expert to perform an accident reconstruction.  The court opines that Ratsy performed enough testing on his design defects opinion to satisfy his expert witness opinions.

Ford also claims that Dr. Ratsy’s expert witness testimony should be excluded because he never worked for a vehicle manufacturing company or designed a part for an automobile.  The court disagrees, opining that even though he has never worked in a vehicle manufacturing company, that doesn’t mean that he is unqualified to perform mechanical engineering experiments on the battery restraint at issue in this case.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Jahan Rasty, Ph.D is denied.