Railroad Expert Witness Testimony Excluded in Railroad Slip and Fall Case

Summary: Railroad Expert Witness allowed to provide testimony even though the defendant argued that his testimony was not reliable as he does not have any specialized knowledge about snow removal in a railyard.

Facts:  This case (Steggall v. BNSF Railway Company – United States District Court – District of Nebraska – April 4th, 2019) involves a claim under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (“FELA”).  The plaintiff alleges that he slipped and fell on ice in the defendant’s Alliance, Nebraska railyard and sustained injuries.  The plaintiff alleges that the defendant negligently and carelessly failed to provide the plaintiff with a safe place to work by committing enumerated negligent acts or omissions.  The plaintiff has hired Railroad Expert Witness Brian Hansen to provide testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion: Hansen has concluded that the defendant failed to provide the plaintiff a reasonably safe work environment on the day of the incident.  The defendant argues that the expert testimony is not based on reliable principles and methods and that lay people can understand the concepts that are involved in this case and that the expert possesses no specialized knowledge concerning ice/snow removal in a railyard.

The plaintiff argues that Hansen’s opinions are reliable as they are firmly grounded in accepted methodology.  The court opines that this statement is not supported in detail in his brief nor in the evidence in the record.  The plaintiff argues that Hansen used a straightforward analysis common to his profession to arrive at his opinion.  The court opines that Hansen’s opinions about BNSF’s compliance with internal procedures and policies are based on his experience in the railroad industry, and not any scientific theory, technique, or methodology.

The court also opines that, although Hansen has many years of experience working for Union Pacific Railroad, he does not have specialized knowledge related to the case’s subject matter.  The court continues by opining that Hansen has not received any training related to snow and ice removal, has not developed a hypothesis and tested it using scientific methodology, and has not testified in other cases as an expert regarding snow and ice conditions.

In addition, the court notes that Hansen’d opinion related to removal of snow do not relate to scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge beyond the province of a lay juror.  The court also opines that the jury is well-qualified whether the defendant met its obligations under their Winter Action Plan and its other policies and procedures.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Brian Hansen is granted.