Mechanical Engineering Testimony in Tire Case Reserved

Plaintiff commenced a lawsuit against defendant after a motor vehicle accident.  Plaintiff hired a mechanical engineer to provide expert witness testimony.

Facts:  This case (Below, Joshua et al v. Yokohama Tire Corporation et al – United States District Court – Western District of Wisconsin – February 2st, 2017) involves a vehicle accident and the subsequent lawsuit filed by the plaintiff (Below) against the defendant (Yokohama).  Below hired Gary A. Derian (mechanical engineering expert witness) to provide expert witness testimony.  Derian opined that a Yokohama tire on Below’s vehicle was defective in regards to design, manufacture, and warning.  He then opined that these defects caused the accident.  Yokohama has moved to exclude four of Derian’s opinions.

Discussion:  Yokohama has moved to exclude the following four opinions by Derian:  1) the tire failure caused the accident; 2) the tire did not have a “nylon cap ply” which would have held the tire together long enough for Below to come to a safe stop; 3) the tire had a manufacturing defect; 4) the defendants’ warning were inadequate, thus making the tire defective.

Regarding the first issue, Yokohama argues that Derian does not have sufficient knowledge to provide an opinion on vehicle safety and control.  Below argues that Derian’s CV shows that he has experience in the application of vehicle dynamics to crash reconstruction and vehicle engineering.  Here, the court agreed with Below.  In addition, Yokohama argues that Derian’s opinion that the tire failure caused a control loss should be excluded because he did not utilize an established methodology by evaluating the truck and the accident scene.  The court again agreed with Below by stating that Derian’s conclusions were based on his analysis of tread marks from pictures of the scene of the accident.

Yokohama also argued that Derian’s opinion that the use of a nylon cap ply would have been useful in allowing the vehicle to stop safely should be excluded because Derian lacks experience evaluating or designing LT285/75R16 tires.  The court disagreed, stating that an expert does not need to be involved in the specific product at issue.  However, Yokohama’s argument that Derian did not utilize methodologies that are reliable in reaching his design defect conclusion and did not provide an adequate basis for the alternative design is more persuasive.  Yokohama argued that Derian’s design defect opinion is not reliable because he has not tested it nor has he identified any studies that his theory is generally accepted in the engineering community.  The court agreed with this argument stating that it could not determine whether Derian’s design defect opinion is satisfactory under Daubert and ordered that Below provide evidence to support their design defect claim.

Yokohama also moved to exclude Derian’s opinion that the tire was defectively manufactured based on unreliability.  The court opined that the manufacturing defect should suffer the same fate as the design defect opinion as it does not entail any scientific authority, studies or analysis that would support his opinion.  Thus, the court reserved its opinion until the final conference before the trial.  In addition, the court stated that it will hear more opinions on Yokohama’s warnings at another pretrial hearing.

Conclusion:  Yokohama’s motion to exclude the expert opinions are reserved pending more factual evidence at a final pretrial conference.