Witness’s Accident Reconstruction Training Fails to Demonstrate Airbag Expertise

Zach Barreto

Written by
— Updated on January 6, 2022

Witness’s Accident Reconstruction Training Fails to Demonstrate Airbag Expertise

Court: United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Mcallen Division
Jurisdiction: Federal
Case Name: Green v. City of Mission
Citation: 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118820

In this case, the defendant retains an expert to opine on airbag deployment in a car collision matter. The expert is a State Trooper with a background in collision reconstruction and investigation. The court, however, explains the defendant has failed to demonstrate how their expert’s training makes him an expert in airbags. This case demonstrates a basic rule for any expert witness: make sure your credentials and experience are an excellent match for the case at hand. If not, your testimony can be excluded, hurting your credibility for future consulting opportunities.

Facts

In case, the family of the deceased brought charges against the city after a fatal shooting involving the police department. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant used excessive force in their pursuit of the deceased who, while suffering from mental illness, attempted to escape the police by fleeing in a pick-up truck and crashed into a tree after the ensuing high-speed chase. The plaintiff also alleged that, after the incident, officers from the city’s police department shot the deceased while he was still in the vehicle.

The Defendant’s Airbag Expert Witness

The plaintiff moved to strike the defendant’s airbag expert witness’s testimony. The plaintiff claimed that the expert’s testimony had been previously dismissed by federal courts and he, therefore, had a reputation of lack of credibility. The plaintiff also argued that the airbag expert’s testimony should be stricken because he had testified on matters outside the scope of his expertise. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed the expert was not qualified to testify as to the witness perception and memory theories, on airbags, or as a legal expert.

Discussion

The plaintiff insisted that the expert is not an airbag expert and moved to exclude certain portions of his testimony. Regarding the expert’s opinions on the effects of airbag deployment and the length of deflation time, the defendant claimed their expert based his conclusions on his background as a State Trooper and in-service training on collision investigation and reconstruction. Further, the expert asserted his expertise in airbags was based on training, experience, and research through which he had “become familiar with motor vehicle airbag deployments and deflations.”

The Court found that these assertions did not meet the defendant’s burden to demonstrate the expert was qualified as an airbag expert. Further, the defendant could not provide specific details on how the expert’s specialty in collision investigation and reconstruction also made him an expert on airbags, the methodology he used, or why such a methodology was reliable.

Ruling

The plaintiff’s motion to strike the testimony of the defendants’ expert witness was granted.

Key Takeaways for Experts

This case demonstrates a less than ideal expert match. When considering potential consulting roles, experts should bring a discerning eye to whether their knowledge base can offer insightful opinions on the case matter.

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