Railroad Expert Witness Testimony Excluded in Personal Injury Case

Summary: Railroad Expert Witness testimony not allowed in personal injury case as the defense argued that he was not qualified to offer testimony in this case.

Facts: This case (Wilks v. BNSF Railway Company – United States District Court – Eastern District of Oklahoma – August 27, 2020) involves an injury suffered by the plaintiff while replacing a broken knuckle on a locomotive. The plaintiff hired Railroad Expert Witness David Anthony Rangel to provide testimony on his behalf.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Mr. Rangel.

The court opinion notes that Mr. Rangel testified that he has never been employed by a railroad and that his experience in the railroad industry started in 1994. The court also states that Mr. Rangel does not have a college degree and that his expertise is limited to his experience at the MODOC academy, which was started at the suggestion of his college friend who worked for BNSF.

Mr. Rangel testified that, as part of his expert report, he sent 12 emails to BNSF employees to find out whether they have received training in the removal of cotter keys on knuckles. He says that he does not remember the names of the employees to whom he sent emails and does not have the nine responses that he received in response to his email queries.

In addition, the judge stated that Mr. Rangel has never removed a cotter key from a knuckle as reflected in this case.  Also, in his deposition, Mr. Rangel mentioned that he did not know that the only way to remove a cotter key safely was with a blow torch or a key knocker device. He also testified that the first time he used a key knocker device was eight months ago.

The court opines that Mr. Rangel’s experience as an owner of a small railroad does not mean that he is qualified to render opinions in this case. In addition, the court states that he has no experience in the removal of a cotter key on a knuckle pin as is relevant in this case. Also, the court notes that there is no evidence that Mr. Rangel taught this specialized training at his railroad academy.  Thus, the court opines that Mr. Rangel is not qualified to offer an opinion in this case. 

The judge also states that the opinions in Mr. Rangel’s expert witness report shows little support for the various opinions and conclusions that he reached. The court also opines that Mr. Rangel’s opinion on training is based on his belief that the key knocker device is the safest way to remove a cotter key.

The court thus concludes that Mr. Rangel does not have the qualifications to provide expert witness testimony in this case and did not use reliable methodology to reach the conclusions to which he testified.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude expert witness testimony of David Anthony Rangelis granted.