Steven Babitsky, Esq.
The U.S. District Court E.D. Louisiana dealt with the Seaman, Compton, who was hit on the head by a falling object and suffered serious injuries.
The defense filed a Daubert challenge to the testimony of David Paulis, PhD, an engineering expert who was to testify as to the forces involved when a falling object hits a person.
The expert, Paulis, conducted tests to determine the likely force with which the object struck Compton.
The court denied the Daubert motion and stated:
Paulus, who has a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and many years of experience working in the field with an emphasis on biomechanical analysis, was hired by Compton as an expert in engineering. Paulus inspected Compton’s hard hat and saw that it had an indentation where the falling object hit Compton. In rendering his opinions, Paulus assumed that the dent in the hard hat must have popped out because Compton had a large cut on his head after the accident. Paulus conducted tests with a dummy, a hard hat of the same make as Compton’s, and objects of different weights, dropped from different heights, to determine the likely force with which the object struck Compton. After conducting his investigations, Paulus opined “to a reasonable degree of engineering certainty”:
- Based on the testing [he] performed, the hard hats were able to be significantly indented from a falling weight without cracking, and such indentations may “pop out” after impact with negligible evidence from the indentation. Thus, the Moncla hard hat presented as evidence may have also undergone significant indentation during impact.
- Based on testimony by Mr. Compton and a report and conversation with Professional Engineer Gregg Perkin, the 2.5 1b crudely fabricated steel connector presented as evidence may have only been part of the mass that fell on Mr. Compton.
- Based on engineering calculations, a 4 1b weight falling 20 ft onto a person’s head while wearing a hard hat would more likely than not have sufficient energy to cause a head acceleration of approximately 95 g’s.
- In light of the three previously stated opinions, it is more likely than not that the significant and life altering injuries Mr. Compton incurred were caused by a mass falling on his hard hat while working for Moncla Marine Companies.
Although Moncla concedes that Paulus is qualified to testify as an expert in engineering, it argues that the Court should exclude Paulus’s testimony because (1) he did not test the hard hat Compton was wearing, (2) the 2.5 1b. steel connector used in Paulus’s tests was not what hit Compton, (3) Paulus does not know what hit Compton or its weight, and (4) the dummy may not have been positioned correctly. Moncla also argues that Paulus did not review any medical records and is not qualified to testify as to medical causation.
In opposition, Compton argues that Paulus’s opinions are relevant and reliable because he was calculating the forces that would cause a hard hat to be dented when an object is dropped on it. Compton argues that Paulus did not test Compton’s actual hard hat, but rather another one of the same make and model, so as to preserve Compton’s hard hat intact as evidence for the jury to observe at trial. Also, Compton contends that Moncla is to blame for Paulus not having the actual object that hit Compton (said to be a counterweight) because Moncla’s employees failed to preserve this evidence after the accident. Finally, Compton concedes that Paulus is not qualified to offer opinions on medical causation and will not do so.
Paulus’s education and experience as a mechanical engineer qualify him to testify as an expert engineer. His opinions concerning indentation of the hard hat, the weight of the object involved, and the force of the blow to Compton’s head are well within the ambit of his expertise and are relevant and reliable. To the extent Moncla questions otherwise the content of and support for Paulus’s report, including the bases and sources of his opinions, Moncla can address its concerns at trial through cross-examination of Paulus and the presentation of countervailing testimony, as those issues go to the weight, not the admissibility, of Paulus’s testimony. See Primrose Operating, 382 F.3d at 562. As such, Moncla’s motion to exclude Paulus is DENIED.
For more information, please see case here: https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=18202570607635215415&q=17-2258&hl=en&as_sdt=6,30&as_ylo=2020