Wednesday, July 21, 2004

6th Circuit Upholds Accident Reconstruction Testimony

In a vehicle rollover case, the Sixth Circuit has affirmed the trial court's decision admitting the defendant's accident reconstructionist's testimony, even though it was based in part on the presence at the accident scene of broken glass and other items not found until sixteen months after the crash. Under Kentucky common law, "the subsequent existence of a temporary condition, such as tracks or debris on a much-traveled road, is not admissible as evidence where considerable time has intervened and there is no showing that the condition has remained the same in the interval." Mountain Petroleum Co. v. Howard, 351 S.W.2d 178, 180 (Ky. 1961). But the debris found by the defense expert was concealed by foliage, and the Sixth Circuit agreed with the defendant that it was not so transient as to bar admissibility. The panel also noted that the Kentucky cases cited by the plaintiff involved fact witness testimony concerning transient conditions, not testimony by experts. See Smith v. Toyota Motor Corp., No. 01-6585 (6th Cir. July 14, 2004) (Boggs, Batchelder & Sutton, JJ.) (unpublished).


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Fed. R. Evid. 702: If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.