Presenting strong expert witness testimony is essential in many Washington, D.C. injury cases. But before the testimony can be considered, it must be admissible under evidentiary rules. In 2016, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals issued a decision adopting Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and the Daubert test articulated in the Supreme Court case Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). The Daubert standard now applies in all civil and criminal cases in Washington, D.C. and focuses on the relevance and reliability of the evidence.
Under Rule 702, a witness who is qualified to testify as an expert based on knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify if:
- The testimony will be helpful in order to understand the evidence or determine a fact at issue;
- The testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
- The testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
- The expert witness reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.
In a recent case before a federal appeals court, the court excluded expert testimony in a personal injury case, finding that the testimony was not reliable. In that case, the plaintiff severely injured his right leg, foot, and ankle when a skid-steer loader he was operating at work tipped over. When it began to tip forward, the plaintiff braced his right foot near the front opening. His foot slipped out the front and he brought the lift down on it, crushing his foot. He and his wife filed a strict liability claim against the manufacturer alleging that the machine was defectively designed.
The plaintiff presented one expert witness. The expert, an engineer, said the loader was unreasonably dangerous because it was likely to not perform how the consumer would expect and that the bucket’s design made it likely that it would be loaded in excess of its operating capacity. He also said that the bucket’s design contributed to the man’s injury because the sudden tip forward caused the man’s attempt to lower the bucket while his leg was braced in the front. The defendant argued that the expert testimony should be excluded because it did not meet the standards under Rule 702.
The court upheld the exclusion of the expert testimony. The court explained that there was an absence of data to support the expert’s opinion that the bucket was likely to exceed its operating capacity and he did not test his theory. The court also found that the expert’s opinion that overloaded buckets on skid-steer loaders can cause a loader to tip did not resolve whether this loader’s bucket caused the accident in part because the expert did not know the weight of the loader at the time of the accident. Therefore, the court found the expert testimony was insufficient. It also found there was not sufficient evidence without the expert testimony and dismissed the case against the manufacturer.
Contact the Washington, D.C. Injury Lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen for Immediate Assistance
To prepare and try a successful injury case you need to retain an experienced injury attorney. The Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyers Lebowitz & Mzhen have the experience and the skills to competently and effectively handle a product liability case. Suffering from an unexpected injury can be a stressful and overwhelming time for you and your family. Lebowitz & Mzhen has the tenacity and resources to pursue all of the parties that were responsible for causing your harm or loss. To schedule a free case evaluation, contact Lebowitz & Mzhen online via their contact form or call toll-free at 800-654-1949.