Numerous Experts Challenged in GM Ignition Switch Litigation

Seven experts proffered by the plaintiffs and three experts proffered by the defendants were challenged by the opposing parties.   The court ruled that most of the objections go to the weight of the testimony and not the admissibility and, thus, both motions are denied in their entirety (with limited exceptions).

Facts: This case (Fleck et al v. General Motors, L.L.C. – United States District Court – Southern District of New York – December 29th, 2015) is one of many filed by plaintiffs regarding a faulty ignition switch in some Old GM automobiles.  In this particular case, the plaintiff was driving his 2003 Saturn Ion 3 on a highway on Bristow, Oklahoma.  Another car tried to pass the plaintiff, but swerved into his lane, which cause him to move off the road.  He hit a tree, but the airbags did not deploy and he suffered injuries.  The plaintiff states that a faulty ignition switch was the cause of the airbags not deploying and he sued GM.  Fleck and GM have hired expert witnesses to assist in proving their cases and both parties have filed challenges.  The court has divided these challenges into a few categories, which include the following type of expert witnesses:  Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness,  Mechanical Engineering Expert WitnessBiomechanics Expert WitnessSeat Belts & Air Bags Expert WitnessVocational Evaluation & Rehabilitation Expert WitnessStatistics Expert WitnessElectrical Engineering Expert Witness

Discussion: The first witness called by the plaintiff, Michael McCort, an expert in accident reconstruction, would testify that on the cause of the non-deployment of the airbags and what caused it not to occur.  New GM stated that McCort’s conclusions is an unsupported assumption.  McCort based his findings on his reconstruction of the accident and his review of other documents related to the case.  The court opined that the unsupported assumption is false, that McCort is qualified to testify in this case, and that any arguments of this type go to the weight of the testimony, not the admissibility.

The second witness called by the plaintiff, Glen Stevick, a mechanical engineer who specializes in failure analysis and the mechanical and electrical equipment design, was challenged by New GM as well, on similar grounds as McCort.  New GM stated that Stevick’s testimony of a “knee-to-key event” is irrelevant and unreliable.  The court again stated that any arguments like this go to the weight of the testimony, not the admissibility, and will not pass a Daubert challenge.

The plaintiff’s next expert, Michael Markushewski, an expert in biomechanics, was challenged by GM as Markushewski is testifying beyond his expertise and should be excluded.  The plaintiff’s state that Markushewski will only testify on issues of the case limited to occupant kinematics.  New GM also stated that his opinions are not reliable, but the court again stated that any arguments go to the weight of the testimony and not their admissibility.  The court reached the same conclusion for Christopher Caruso, a Seat Belt & Air Bag Expert Witnesses.

New GM also challenges plaintiff’s vocational expert Robert Cox.  New GM stated that Cox’s testimony was unreliable as it failed to use generally accepted methodologies as he did not interview the plaintiff or conduct vocational testing and transferable skills analysis.  The court opined that the methodologies used by Cox are not sufficient enough to exclude his testimony based on Daubert.

The plaintiff also challenges three of New GM’s experts:   Jeya Padmanaban (statistics expert witness), Thomas Livernois (electrical engineering expert witness), and Harry Smith (Biomechanics Expert Witness).  For Padmanaban and Livernois, the court stated, as it did with the previous witnesses, that the arguments against the testimony of these witnesses go go the weight of the testimony and not the admissibility.

As for Dr. Smith, the plaintiff challenges part of his testimony that Fleck used drugs on the day of the accident.  New GM states that it will not ask Smith to provide opinions on Plaintiff’s drug use on that day.  The court agreed and granted the plaintiff’s motion to exclude this part of the evidence.

Held: Most of both parties challenges to the respective expert witnesses were denied.


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