Mechanical Engineering Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Defective Jack Stand Litigation

Summary: Mechanical Engineering Expert Witness allowed to provide testimony even though the defendants argued that he did not have the qualifications to provide testimony in accident reconstruction and does not have any formal biomechanical training.

Facts:  This case (Klorczyk et al v. Sears, Roebuck & Co. et al – United States District Court – District of Connecticut – March 29th, 2019) involves a claim of wrongful death.  The plaintiffs (the estate of the decedent) allege that the decedent died because of a defective jack stand that allowed a car to fall on him and crush him.  They have sued the defendants that they allege designed, manufactured, and sold the jack stand.  The defendants deny that the decedent used their jack stand or that their jack stand was defective.  The plaintiff’s hired Mechanical Engineering Expert Witness to provide testimony.  The defendants have filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion: The defendants argue that Heath is not qualified to offer expert testimony in this case.  They claim that Heath has no relevant qualifications to testify about the accident in this case because he has no knowledge or experience in accident reconstruction other than his history as a paid expert witness.  The court notes that Heath’s curriculum vitae does not show any formal biomechanical training.  However, the court opines that experts do not necessarily need a formal degree in a discipline to be qualified to testify about it.  The court notes that Heath has worked for over two decades as a mechanical engineering manager and executive and has written numerous publications on vehicle lifting, safety, and accidents.  The court also opines that nothing makes his experience performing accident reconstructions disqualifying as a matter of law.  Thus, the court opines that Heath has the qualifications to provide testimony in this case.

The defendants also argue that Heath’s opinions are not based on sufficient facts or data and instead are speculative or conjectural to admit as evidence.    First, the defendants argue that Heath’s report is not reliable because it relied on the plaintiff’s testimony about the decedent’s use of the jack stand.  The court opines that while this is true, the is nothing bad about an expert relying on witness accounts.  In addition, the court opines that Heath’s report also contains police reports from the accident as well as his own accident scene investigation.

The defendants also argue that Heath’s conclusions are speculative.  They point first to Heath’s assumption that the decedent had been using the jack stand and then they take issue with some of the report’s methodologies.  The court opines that Heath’s reports were based on witness testimony as well as his accident scene observations and these conclusions are neither speculative nor conjecture.  The court opines that the defendants objections go to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility.

Conclusion: The motion to exclude the testimony of Frederick Heath is denied.