United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
RICHARD WEBBER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to
Exclude Expert Witness Testimony .
August 7, 2012, Plaintiff Kristin Smith was driving her 1997
Toyota 4Runner (“4Runner”) on MO-6. As Ms. Smith
was rounding a curve, she lost control of the vehicle,
crossed the center line to the opposite side of the roadway,
crossed back over to the right, and eventually rolled over
several times in the vehicle. Parties dispute the facts
immediately leading up to the vehicle roll-over. Two or three
months after the vehicle crash, Plaintiff Lloyd Smith, Ms.
Smith's husband, took the 4Runner to the scrapyard where
it was destroyed. Plaintiffs had purchased the vehicle from a
previous owner approximately five years before the crash and
ten to fourteen years after it was originally sold.
October 28, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a products liability case
in state court, and on April 28, 2016, Plaintiffs filed suit
in this Court against Toyota Motor Corporation and Toyota
Motor Sales, U.S.A. (collectively, “Defendants”).
Plaintiffs claim the vehicle crash was a result of an alleged
product defect of the 4Runner which caused the vehicle to be
unreasonably dangerous and defective. Defendants deny there
was any defect in the 4Runner. They raise several affirmative
defenses in their Answer, including modification or
alteration of the product.
have filed a motion to exclude the testimony of
Plaintiffs' experts opining (1) the 4Runner was in
substantially the same condition at the time of the crash as
when it was first sold and (2) the rollover was caused by a
design defect. Chiefly, Defendants allege Plaintiffs have
failed to identify a sufficient foundation and reliable
methodology to support any opinion on these points because
their experts were unable to inspect the vehicle, which was
demolished two to three months after the accident. Defendants
further note the vehicle was over 15 years old registering
approximately 200, 000 miles, and it had previous owners who
performed several known modifications. They argue experts
cannot reliably rule out other potential causes for the
respond the expert witnesses were fully capable of offering
reliable opinions based on proven and accepted scientific
methodologies without having access to the vehicle.
Specifically, Mr. Arndt relies on scene photographs, physical
evidence present at the scene of the accident, police
investigation records, first responder reports and testimony,
scene witness statements and depositions, accepted
reconstruction tools and methodology, his own vehicle
testing, vehicle testing and records produced by Toyota, and
the inspection and testing of exemplar vehicles and
their reply, Defendants state Plaintiffs' response
focuses on proffered expert opinions not challenged by
Defendants in their motion to exclude. They specifically
state they have not sought to exclude testimony related to
Mr. Arndt's accident reconstruction opinions, but rather,
Defendants ask this Court to exclude any testimony by Mr.
Arndt opining the vehicle was in the substantially same
condition at the time of the crash as when it was first sold
and the rollover incident was caused by an alleged design
Defendants ask this Court to exclude testimony on these two
issues by all of Plaintiffs' experts, the briefs provided
by both parties focus on the testimony of Plaintiffs'
expert, Mr. Arndt. Additionally, both Defendants and
Plaintiffs have filed motions for summary judgment [55, 57].
Rule of Evidence 702 provides that a court may permit opinion
testimony from a witness qualified as an expert if:
“(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other
specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to
understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue; (b)
the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data; (c) the
testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods;
and (d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and
methods to the facts of the case.” Fed.R.Evid. 702. To
be admitted under Rule 702, proposed expert testimony must
meet three prerequisites: 1) any evidence based on
scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge must be
useful to the fact finder in determining a fact in issue; 2)
the proposed witness must be qualified to assist the fact
finder; and 3) the proposed evidence must be reliable or
trustworthy in an evidentiary sense. Id.; Daubert v.
Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 590-93
district court's goal in assessing expert testimony is to
ensure that “all scientific testimony is both reliable
and relevant.” Barrett v. Rhodia, Inc., 606
F.3d 975, 980 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Marmo v. Tyson
Fresh Meats, Inc., 457 F.3d 748, 757 (8th Cir. 2006)).
The reliability requirement means “the party offering
the expert testimony must show by a preponderance of the
evidence both that the expert is qualified to render the
opinion and that the methodology underlying his conclusions
is scientifically valid, ” while the relevance
requirement demands “the proponent must show that the
expert's reasoning or methodology was applied properly to
the facts at issue.” Id. (internal quotations
and citations omitted).
“the main inquiry is whether the proffered expert's
testimony is sufficiently reliable.” First Union
Nat. Bank v. Benham, 423 F.3d 855, 861 (8th Cir. 2005).
As long as the expert's testimony “rests upon
‘good grounds, based on what is known' it should be
tested by the adversary process with competing expert
testimony and cross-examination, rather than excluded by the
court at the outset.” Id. (quoting
Daubert, 509 U.S. at 590, 596. “Only if the
expert's opinion is so fundamentally unsupported that it
can offer no assistance to the jury must such testimony be
excluded.” Benham, 523 F.3d at 862.
“Doubts regarding ‘whether an expert's
testimony will be useful should generally be resolved in
favor of admissibility.'” Clark v.
Hendrick, 150 F.3d 912, 915 (8th Cir. 1998)) (quoting
Larabee v. MM & L Int'l Corp., 896 F.2d
1112, 1116 n.6 (8th Cir. 1990)).
“the factual basis of an expert opinion goes to
credibility of the testimony, not admissibility, and it is up
to the opposing party to examine the factual basis for the
opinion in cross-examination.” Nebraska Plastics,
Inc. v. Holland Colors Americas, Inc., 408 F.3d 410, 416
(8th Cir. 2005)); see also United States v.
Coutentos, 651 F.3d 809, 820 (8th Cir. 2011); Cole
v. Homier Dist. Co., 599 F.3d 856, 865 (8th Cir. 2010);
Archer Daniels Midland Co. v. Aon Risk Servs., Inc.,
356 F.3d 850, 858 (8th Cir. 2004). Indeed, the Eighth Circuit
has recognized “[e]xpert opinion necessarily involves
some speculation.” Weitz Co. v. MH Washington,
631 F.3d 510, 528 (8th Cir. 2011) (citing Group Health
Plan, Inc. v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., 344 F.3d 753, 760
(8th Cir. 2003)). Accordingly, “[v]igorous