Occupational Medicine Expert Witness Testimony Denied in Part In Tractor-Trailer Crash

Overview:  Occupational Medicine Expert Witness testimony is granted in part because part of the expert’s testimony on the company’s negligence was a legal conclusion and not allowed.

Facts:  This case  (Malone et al v. Spence et al – United States District Court – Northern District of Texas – August 9th, 2023) involves a motor vehicle accident. The defendant was operating a tractor-trailer and drove off a roadway and crashed into two vehicles that were parked at a convenience store, injuring two people who were sleeping at the time.  The plaintiffs allege that the driver did not maintain proper control of the truck and was operating a commercial vehicle even though he was unqualified, fatigued, which was in violation of numerous local, state, and federal laws.  To prove their case, the plaintiffs hired Occupational Medicine Expert Witness Stefanos Kales to provide expert witness testimony.  The defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion: The plaintiffs hired Dr. Kales to discuss whether his working hours and fatigue caused or contributed to the crash.  The defendants allege that Dr. Kales is not qualified to provide an opinion on motor carrier regulations or commercial trucking policies.  The court notes that Dr. Kales is a professor of occupational medicine at Harvard Medical School and  is responsible for training physicians on the examination of truck drivers and the performance of commercial driver’s license medical examinations and the effects of shift work on truck drivers.  In addition, the court states that Dr. Kales has been a certified medical examiner for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for 9 years and has written more than 25 publications on the subject of truck drivers and sleep.  The court opines that Dr. Kales is qualified to provide expert witness testimony on sleep and fatigue in the commercial motor vehicle industry.  The court then states that the defendant’s arguments go to the weight of the testimony, not the admissibility.

In addition, the defendants argue that certain opinions of Dr. Kales are impermissible legal opinions and should be excluded.  This testimony relates to the Company’s gross negligence.  The court states that these opinions are not allowed as they parrot the elements of gross negligence under Texas law.  The court ruled that Dr. Kales will not be allowed to provide an expert opinion that the company was reckless when it authorized the driver to get behind the wheel on the date of the crash.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness opinion of Dr. Stefanos Kales is granted in part and denied in part.