Railroad Expert Witness Testimony Not Allowed

Plaintiff sued defendant after being injured while working as a switchman.  Plaintiff hired a Railroad Expert Witness to provide testimony.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude, which was granted by the court.

Facts:  This case (Gilreath v. CSX Transportation, Inc. – United States District Court – Eastern District of Kentucky – February 21st, 2018) involves a claim under the federal Safety Appliances Act.  The plaintiff (Gilreath) claims that while working as a switchman on a remote control locomotive at a CSXT railyard, the tension in a hand brake momentarily and unexpectedly released before coming to a sudden stop.  This stop caused him to feel a pop and jolt in his shoulder and pain in his left arm.  Galreath claims that this incident caused his rotator cuff and labral tears.  Galreath has hired John David Engle Jr (Railroad Expert Witness) to provide testimony on his behalf.  The defendant (CSX) has filed a motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Mr. Engle.

Discussion:  Engle’s opinion includes testimony that the hand brake was defective at the time of the time of the incident.  CSX does not dispute that Engle is qualified, based on his experience, to provide expert testimony in this case.  CSX does argue however, that Engle’s opinion will not assist the trier of fact and is unreliable.

The court opines that while Engle claims to have followed a methodology commonly used by experts in his field, there is no evidence that this is indeed the case.  The court notes that Engle’s testimony is based entirely on Gilreath’s account of the incident.  Engle, the court continues, has not inspected the car at issue.  The court opines that only relying on statements made by Gilreath three years after the incident in an accepted methodology for assessing the efficiency of a hand brake.

In addition, Gilreath also fails to explain what caused the alleged defect in the hand brake.  The court opines that since no additional inspections have been conducted, Engle still does not have a reliable methodology to explain what caused the hand brake to slip.

Regarding whether or not Gilreath’s testimony assists the trier of fact, the court is not convinced.  Engle admits that his testimony is based on Gilreath’s description of the incident as well as federal regulations.  The court opines that these federal regulations are not helpful in determining if the hand brake was efficient.  Thus, since Engle’s testimony is only based on Gilreath’s account of the incident, the jury is just a capable to determine the credibility of Gilreath’s statements regarding the incident.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of John David Engle Jr is granted.