Utilities Expert Witness Testimony Allowed

Plaintiff sued defendant after he was injured when he struck a buried power line with his shovel. Plaintiff hired a Utilities Expert Witness to provide testimony.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert witness testimony, which was denied by the court.

Facts:  This case (Foster v. USIC Locating Services, LLC – United States District Court – District of Kansas – August 7th, 2018) involves a personal injury claim.  The plaintiff was injured when he struck a buried electric power line with a shovel.  The plaintiff maintains that the power line should have been marked by the defendant’s employees, but it was not.  The defendant has hired Utilities Expert Witness Christopher Koch.  The plaintiff has filed a motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Mr. Koch.

Discussion: Koch’s expert report is about the locating and marking of underground facilities.  In his report, he opined why the defendant’s locator could locate the existence of underground electrical utilities south of a certain pole, but not north of that pole.  He argues that poor grounding or soil conditions could have prevented a locator from detecting the power line.  Koch concluded that even if the locator performed his job adequately and the equipment used was functioning the proper way, it is still possible that the power line could not have been located.

The plaintiff argues that Koch does not have the required experience to testify about these matters.  In addition, they state that Koch’s opinion is not reliable because it is based on speculation.  In addition, the plaintiff opines that Koch is not an electrical engineer and he doesn’t have facts to support his opinion about signal splitting and a 360 degree swap.

First, the plaintiff alleges that that Koch is not qualified to render an opinion on locating because because he does not have education or experience as an electrical engineer or an electrical utility engineer.  The plaintiff argues that Koch’s experience qualifies him to testify on appropriate locating procedures.  The court states that Koch has more than twenty years of experience in the field of locating, has helped produce training DVDs and has published a number of articles about locating and the science behind it.  Thus, the court opines that Koch is qualified to testify on the theory of locating and specifically as it relates to signal splitting.

The plaintiff also argues that Koch’s opinions are not reliable because they are speculative and not based on any evidence.  The court disagrees, stating that Koch made several assertions that are meant to explain his opinions.  In addition, the court rules that Koch does not have to prove that his opinions were in fact the cause of the incident.  Last, the court opines that any arguments like this go to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Christopher Koch is denied.