Packaging Engineer Expert Witness’s Opinion On Commercial Motor Vehicles Found Not Based Upon a Reliable Methodology

In Morris v. Ford Motor Company the US District Court for the Northern District of Indiana has ruled that a packaging engineer’s opinion based upon his claimed experiences without further explanation was not based upon a reliable methodology.  The Court reasoned:

Morris insists that Anthony’s CV shows that he is fully qualified. This CV shows that Anthony received a B.S. in Packaging Engineering, and an M.B.A. in Marketing and Finance, and also took doctoral courses in International Marketing and Logistics. Morris has not explained how any of this education renders Anthony an expert in loading and securing cargo in a commercial motor vehicle. Anthony’s CV states that his “Expert Witness Experience” includes actions involving “product liability/personal injury, failure to warn, regulatory violations, and intellectual property infringement.” Again, Morris fails to explain how this experience shows that Anthony is qualified to testify regarding the issues in this case.

In any event, Ford has also argued that there is no way to ascertain the reliability of Anthony’s opinions. Ford notes that, by Anthony’s own admission, his opinions are based upon nothing more than his review of the discovery in this case and his claimed experience “in packaging, marketing and logistics”. Anthony failed to rely upon any independent authority to support his opinions.

The Advisory Committee’s note to Fed. R. Evid. 702 provides that “in certain fields, experience is the predominant, if not sole, basis for a great deal of reliable expert testimony.” Nevertheless, the note also provides that “[i]f the witness is relying solely or primarily on experience, then the witness must explain how that experience leads to the conclusion reached, why that experience is a sufficient basis for the opinion, and how that experience is reliably applied to the facts.” Fed. R. Evid. 702 advisory committee’s note (“The trial court’s gatekeeping function requires more than simply ‘taking the expert’s word for it.'”)

In the present case, the court agrees with Ford that Anthony fails to provide an explanation for his opinions in conformance with the framework provided by the Advisory Committee’s note. Anthony fails to cite to a single authority or describe how he formulated his opinions through his experience. For example, Anthony stated that, “For Ford to have loaded dunnage within a truck without adequately securing the load against in-transit movement was a violation of industry standards; consequently, the load was rendered unreasonable dangerous”. The only analysis provided in advance of the conclusory statement is to explain what dunnage is and to state that it can move within a truck if not secured. This is not enough. See Reed v. City of Chicago, 2006 WL 1543928, 2-3 (N.D.Ill. 2006) (excluding expert’s opinion that was based upon his knowledge and the “usual and customary” practices in the industry because he “does not cite to any authority or describe how he formulated his opinions”). By simply invoking his claimed experience without explaining how his expertise led him to reach his opinions, Anthony fails to provide the Court with any means to assess the reliability of his opinions. See Superior Aluminum Alloys, LLC v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co., 2007 WL 1850858, 7 (N.D. Ind. 2007), citing Zenith Elecs. Corp. v. WH-T Broad. Corp., 395 F.3d 416, 419 (7th Cir. 2005) (noting that an expert “who invokes ‘my experience’…is not an expert as Rule 702 defined that term…”). Thus this court finds that Anthony’s opinions and conclusions are not based upon a reliable methodology. At 8-10.

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