Plaintiffs sued defendants in an action involving an alleged defective car seat. Both parties hired expert witness and both parties filed motions to exclude. The court denied all of these motions.
Facts: This case (Ribeiro et al v. Baby Trend, Inc – United States District Court – District of Nebraska – April 17th, 2017) involves injuries sustained by the plaintiff due to an alleged defect in an infant car seat. The plaintiffs argue the seat’s restraint system strangled Lucas Ribeiro which caused him to suffer brain damage. They claim that the defendants were negligent in the design, manufacture, and testing of the car seat and some of its component parts. The plaintiffs hired Dr. Arthur W. Hoffmann (mechanical engineering expert witness), Terry Stentz, Ph.D and Kelli Herstein, Ph. D. (ergonomics expert witnesses). The defendants hired Dr. William Van Arsdell and James Chinni, P.E. (mechanical engineering expert witnesses). Motions to exclude were also filed against these witnesses.
Discussion: The defendants’ have filed a motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Arthur W. Hoffmann, who will testify on design defects, inadequate warnings, manufacturing defects, and unreasonable dangerousness. The defendants’ argue that his approach is not based on any scientific methodology and is thus unreliable. In addition, they argue that he should not be able to testify on the adequacy of warnings, defective materials, or biomechanics because he is not a warnings expert, a biomechanical expert, or a materials expert. The court disagreed, stating that he is qualified to render an opinion expressed at his deposition and in his report and that his conclusions are based on sound engineering principles. In addition, the court stated that any arguments about his testing can be done during cross examination.
Drs. Stentz and Herstein will be providing opinions on the infant carrier related to ergonomics, safety engineering, and human factors. They will testify that the car seat at issue was unreasonably defective and defective. Defendant IMMI argues that these two expert witnesses are not qualified because they are ergonomists, not experts in the car seat design. The court disagreed, stating that Drs. Stentz and Herstein’s expert opinions on design are within their area of expertise. Their opinions on adequacy of warnings and design defects fall within their education and experience on human factors and safety engineering.
The plaintiffs argue that the expert opinion of Dr. Van Arsdell should not be allowed because his method of testing is not scientific or reliable. Dr. Vam Arsdell conducted testing on the car seat, the crotch buckle, researched peer-reviewed literature, and employed generally accepted methods of logical scientific and engineering analysis. The court found that he is qualified to provide expert opinions in this case. Any arguments about the methodology can be addressed on cross examination.
Mr. James Chinni will provide an expert opinion on the A-Lok adjuster. The plaintiffs argue that Mr. Chinni based his opinions on a review of the 2013 Baby Trend car seat, not the actual car seat at issue. In addition, they argue that his opinions on past Chrysler recalls are irrelevant and should be should excluded. The court disagreed, stating that Mr. Chinni properly applied the methods and principles to the facts of the case.
Conclusion: The plaintiffs’ and defendants’ motions to exclude the various expert witness testimony are denied.