Friday, December 29, 2006

5th Circuit Upholds Testimony on Defective Door-Latch Design

The trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting plaintiffs' engineering testimony on defective door-latch design in a truck-accident case, the Fifth Circuit ruled on Wednesday. As recited in the appellate opinion, the defendants' Daubert objections sound pretty weak: the expert had published no peer-reviewed work on Mack truck door latches; his testimony had been ruled inadmissible in a previous case; he relied on third-party testing rather than conducting the tests himself; and he was "not a door-latch specialist."

The $7.9 million jury verdict in plaintiffs' favor was nevertheless vacated, because the trial court erred in excluding evidence about seat belt use. See Hodges v. Mack Trucks, Inc., No. 04-41362 (5th Cir. Dec. 27, 2006) (Davis, Barksdale, & DeMoss, JJ.).


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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.