Metallurgy Expert Witness Allowed and Two Environmental Engineering Expert Witnesses Partially Allowed.

Plaintiff sued defendants after being injured while preparing hazardous waste for incineration.  The plaintiff hired a metallurgy expert witness and the defendants hired two  environmental engineering expert witnesses.  The court denied one of the motions and partially denied and partially granted the other two motions.

Facts:  This case (Bechak v. ATI Wah Chang, a Division of TDY, LLC et al – United States District Court – Northern District of Ohio – October 11th, 2017) involves an explosion that occurred when the Plaintiff (Bechak) and his co-workers were preparing hazardous waste for incineration.    Bechak sued numerous entities.  To assist in proving his case, Bechak hired Elizabeth C. Buc (metallurgy expert witness).  The defendants also hired two environmental engineering expert witnesses : Richard J. Powals and Lawrence G. Doucet.  Both parties have filed motions to exclude the testimony of these experts.

Discussion: The court first turned to the testimony of Lawrence G. Doucet.  Mr. Doucet was hired to provide independent and objective evaluations of the role and responsibilities of Heritage-WTI.  Bechak argues that Mr. Doucet’s report and testimony is unreliable and relies on flawed methodology.  The court opined that Mr. Doucet did not perform any tests and does not offer any analysis to explain his conclusions.   He explained that he based his conclusions on his experience.  However, he does not explain how his training or experience led to his conclusions.  Nor does he identify a source that he relied on for his conclusions.  In addition, the court opined that Mr. Doucet assumes that the defendants version of the facts and opines on causation based on those facts.  Thus, his report is not based on sufficient facts or data and are not the product of reliable methods or principles.    The court granted in part and denied in part this testimony.  Mr. Doucet will only be allowed to testify about regulations and industry standards for waste disposal facilities as well as whether Heritage-WTI’s policies conformed to those standards.

The defendants argue that Elizabeth C. Buc does not have the relevant experience to form an opinion on duties imposed by numerous federal acts.  They further state that information that Dr. Buc received was incomplete, inaccurate, and misleading.  In addition, they allege that Dr. Buc’s adverse testimony should be excluded because she lacks the expertise in the standard of care for waste brokers.  The court opined that Dr. Buc did not offer “standard of care” testimony and that any arguments by the defendants go to the weight of the testimony and not the admissibility.

Richard J. Powals’ opinion entails what he considers to be the “standard of care” of a waste broker, his disagreement with Dr. Buc, and his assessment of the cause of the explosion. The court opined that Mr. Powals will be allowed to testify on the standard practices of waste brokers, but will only be limited to industry standards and customs.  In addition, he will not be permitted to testify about the explosions.

Conclusion:  The motions to exclude the expert witness testimony of Lawrence G. Doucet and Richard J. Powals were granted in part and denied in part.  The motion to exclude the testimony of Elizabeth C. Buc  was denied