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Boren v. Smith Motor Freight, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 24, 2015

DIANA BOREN and ALMA ARCHIE, Plaintiffs,
v.
SMITH MOTOR FREIGHT, INC., and KENNETH FINGERHUT, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JOHN A. ROSS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants Smith Motor Freight, Inc. and Kenneth Fingerhut's Motion to Exclude Testimony of Plaintiff Diana Boren's Expert, David Stopper (Doc. 24). The Motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition. Defendants request oral argument on their Motion, however the Court finds that the matter is thoroughly briefed and that oral argument is unnecessary. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion will be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. Background

This action arises from a motor vehicle accident on October 31, 2013, involving a Toyota Corolla operated by Plaintiff Diana Boren ("Boren"), with Plaintiff Alma Archie[1] ("Archie") riding in the front passenger seat, and a tractor-trailer driven by Defendant Ken Fingerhut ("Fingerhut") while in the scope of his employment with Defendant Smith Motor Freight ("Smith Motor"). On March 10, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a three-count complaint alleging negligence per se (Count II) and various claims of negligence (Counts I & III) against Fingerhut and Smith Motor.

Boren offers David Stopper, an accident reconstruction expert, to opme on whether Fingerhut crossed the centerlines and that the area of impact was in the Plaintiffs' westbound lane. Defendants do not dispute Mr. Stopper's qualifications but, instead, seek to exclude several of his expert opinions as based on insufficient facts and invalid methodologies that render them irrelevant and unreliable speculation (Doc. 24 at 1; Doc. 25 at 3). Specifically, Defendants request the exclusion of the following four opinions:

A. The fluid spatter Trooper Palmer, the investigating state trooper, observed could not have leaked from the Toyota during the impact.
B. Certain gouge marks might be related to the collision.
C. "Trailer swing" caused the rear of the Defendants' trailer to slide into the Plaintiffs' westbound lane.
D. The vehicles could only have collided at Mr. Stopper's determined impact angle if the Defendants' trailer was in the Plaintiffs' westbound lane.

II. Analysis

The admission of expert testimony in federal court is governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 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.

See Clark v. Heidrick, 150 F.3d 912, 915 (8th Cir. 1998). Doubt regarding "whether an expert's testimony will be useful should generally be resolved in favor of admissibility." Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). In Daubert, the Supreme Court explained that in examining an expert's opinions for admissibility, trial courts should consider the following criteria: (1) whether the theory being offered by the expert has been tested; (2) whether the theory has been subjected to peer review, publication, or analysis by others considered experts in the field; (3) whether the theory has a "known or potential rate of error"; and (4) whether the theory has been generally accepted by others in the field. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 593-94 (1993). "The proponent of the expert testimony must prove its admissibility by a preponderance of the evidence." Lauzon v. Senco Prods., Inc., 270 F.3d 681, 686 (8th Cir. 2001) (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592). "The exclusion of an ...


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