Transportation Safety Expert Witness Allowed In Part

Plaintiff filed suit against vehicle manufacturer after it rolled over.  Plaintiff hired a Transportation Safety Expert Witness to provide testimony.  The defendant filed a motion to exclude this testimony, which was granted in part and denied in part.

Facts:  This case (Smith et al v. Toyota Motor Corporation et al – United States District Court – Eastern District of Missouri – March 13th 2013) involves a vehicle accident.  The plaintiff (Ms. Smith) lost control of her 1994 Toyota 4Runner and it rolled over several times.  Ms. Smith’s husband had the vehicle destroyed.  The plaintiffs filed a products liability case in state court and in the present jurisdiction claiming that the vehicle crash was caused by an alleged product defect.  The defendants deny that the 4Runner was defective in any way.  The Plaintiffs hired Mark W. Arndt (Transportation Safety Expert Witness) to provide testimony.  The defendants filed a motion to exclude this testimony.

Discussion:  The defendants allege that two aspects of Mr. Arndt’s testimony should be excluded:  1) that the vehicle was in the same condition at the time of the crash as when it was first sold and 2) that the rollover was caused by a design defect.  Specifically, they argue that the plaintiffs have not identified a specific foundation and reliable testimony because their experts were not able to inspect the vehicle.  In addition, they allege that experts cannot reliably rule out other possible causes of the rollover.

The plaintiffs maintain that they are capable of offering reliable opinions based on proven scientific methodologies. without having access to the vehicle.  Mr. Arndt stated that he relied on scene photographs, police investigation records, first responder reports, accepted reconstruction tools and methodology, his own vehicle testing, and vehicle records produced by Toyota.  The defendants reply that the plaintiffs’ response focuses on opinions that are not challenged by the defendants and do not address the two issues mentioned in their initial brief.

Regarding the first issue, the court rules that the sources Mr. Arndt used to provide overall testimony to nor provide a basis for his testimony that the vehicle was in the same condition to when it was first sold.  The court continued by saying that any issue as to whether the vehicle was in the same condition around the time of the crash from when it was first sold does not need an expert witness to provide testimony and would be superfluous to other evidence presented to the jury and should be excluded.

The court, however, did opine that the testimony presented by Mr. Arndt that the rollover crash was caused by a defect design would be allowed.  The court stated that Mr. Arndt testimony about the crash is both reliable and relevant and can be applied to the facts of this case.  Thus, the second part of the challenged testimony will be allowed.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Mark W. Arndt is granted in part and denied in part.