Federal Court Overseeing Indiana Rules on Validity of Expert Testimony in Products Liability Action

Recently, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling on a case stemming from an Indiana motorcycle accident. The two plaintiffs were embarking on a cross-country trip on their Harley-Davidson motorcycle. While going through Nebraska, the couples’ bike tire sustained a puncture and deflated. The quick deflation resulted in the husband losing control of the motorcycle and crashing into a median. The husband slid across the highway, and his wife was thrown off the bike. Unfortunately, although both people were wearing helmets, they sustained severe injuries, including traumatic brain injuries.

A few months after the accident, the couple received a recall notice for their helmets. The couple filed a products liability lawsuit against the companies that sold them their helmets, the motorcycle manufacturer, and several other entities. The couple alleged that that the helmets and tires had design and manufacturing defects. The couple did not provide any experts for their helmet claim, and the district court entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants. However, the plaintiffs did provide expert testimony for their defective tire claim. The tire defendants filed motions to exclude the plaintiffs’ expert testimony based on a lack of reliability under the Federal Rules of Evidence. The plaintiffs challenged this ruling; however, the appeals court ultimately affirmed the lower courts finding.

Indiana follows the Federal Rules of Evidence 702 and the Daubert standard. Under Daubert, a trial judge is responsible for ensuring that evidence is “reliable and relevant.” Typically, courts assess the reliability prong on a case-by-case basis; however, there are certain factors that courts analyze. Some general things that courts look to are whether the expert’s theory has been tested and peer-reviewed. Further, the court will examine whether the method they are putting forth has general acceptance in the relevant community.

In this case, the tire experts that the couple presented did not have qualifications related to motorcycle tires specifically; instead, they had expertise regarding tires generally. The court found that the theory did not follow valid methodologies, and the experts did not rely on any empirical data or experiments. Similarly, the other expert did not replicate the accident and could not point to anything to support his theory. Ultimately, the court concluded that neither expert had the qualifications to stand as an expert in this case.

Indiana accident victims should make sure that they comport with Daubert standards when presenting an expert witness. Expert witnesses are crucial in products liability lawsuits in Indiana and can drastically affect the outcome of a personal injury and negligence lawsuit.

Have You Been Injured Because of Defective Product or Design?

If you or a loved one suffered injuries because of a defective product, you should contact the experienced attorneys at Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse. The attorneys at our Indiana law firm have extensive experience handling complicated personal injury and Indiana products liability lawsuits. Our attorneys can assist you in determining your rights and remedies. Additionally, our attorneys can find appropriate expert witnesses. You may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you sustained. Financial compensation may include payments for the medical bills you incurred, ongoing medical bills, and pain and suffering. Contact the law firm at 888-532-7766 to schedule a free initial consultation.