Accident Reconstruction Expert’s Opinion on Driver’s Habits at Issue in Florida Case

Expertise Description

An overturned truck on an highway in an accident.A former employee of the City of Tampa filed an action for unlawful retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Florida Civil Rights Act ("FCRA").Plaintiff was employed as a City Solid Waste Collection Driver. At some time during his employment, he was diagnosed with a medical condition that allegedly limited one or more of his major life activities. He filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), asserting that the City failed to reasonably accommodate his disability. He then filed, pro se, a lawsuit under the ADA for disability discrimination against the City. Plaintiff was still employed by the City when he filed his pro se lawsuit.During the ADA lawsuit against the City, Plaintiff was involved in an accident involving the City's solid waste truck. While waiting to unload debris at a transfer station, Plaintiff exited the truck. He thought he had pulled the parking brake prior to getting out of the truck. However, while he was out of the vehicle, it began moving forward, went over a speed bump, and struck the vehicle causing damages. There were no injuries.The City ultimately concluded that Plaintiff hadn’t set the brake and issued a "Letter of Counseling" related to the incident because the accident was preventable. The City relied on the recommendation from its safety review committee, which concluded that Plaintiff hadn’t pulled the parking brake, as well as a traffic report and statements from a mechanic who inspected the vehicle after the accident.Plaintiff took the deposition of the City's Solid Waste Director as part of his pro se lawsuit against the City, which was still pending. The complaint alleged that within a month of his deposition, Plaintiff was given a notice of disciplinary action, accusing him of making false statements, and thus violating the City's policy on "Moral Turpitude."At a hearing, the City showed video footage of the accident, which revealed Plaintiff exiting the vehicle without setting the parking brake. Based on the video, the City terminated Plaintiff's employment for intentionally lying to the police and the City when he repeatedly maintained throughout the investigation and grievance process that he had pulled the parking brake.Plaintiff alleged that the City's stated reason for terminating his employment was "not worthy of belief." His retaliation claims were premised on the timing of Director’s deposition and Plaintiff's termination. According to Plaintiff, these two events were causally related. However, Plaintiff then admitted that he didn’t pull the parking brake. Plaintiff argued that the real reason he was terminated was that he pursued the initial discrimination case against the City.The City designated a mechanical engineer specializing in accident reconstruction as an expert witness. The expert opined that the driver of the City’s solid waste truck didn’t engage the parking brake prior to exiting the vehicle at the time of the accident. In addition, the expert said that the driver failed to put the truck in neutral and didn’t follow proper procedures.The accident reconstruction expert also concluded that the driver had a habit of not parking the vehicle properly prior to exiting because he’d done the same thing five minutes before the accident; that he knew, or should have known, that he left the vehicle in drive as he must have put it in neutral after the accident when he engaged the parking brake; and that he knew, or should have known, that he didn’t put the parking brake on since he engaged the parking brake immediately after the accident.Plaintiff moved to strike the expert’s report in its entirety. He argued that the expert improperly opined on Plaintiff's credibility; he didn’t have the adequate expertise to testify about Plaintiff's "habit" or what Plaintiff "knew or should have known;" and the expert’s testimony as to the causation of Plaintiff's accident wouldn’t assist the trier of fact.U.S. District Court Judge James S. Moody Jr. wrote in his decision that before permitting expert opinion testimony, the court must make certain that the expert employs "in the courtroom the same level of intellectual rigor that characterizes the practice of the expert in the field," quoting Kumho Tire Co.The judge found that the expert's opinion must be excluded under Daubert because portions of his report were based on pure speculation. More importantly, the entire report would not assist the trier of fact. The expert, who was experienced in mechanical engineering and accident reconstruction, wasn’t qualified to testify about Plaintiff's "habit" and state of mind. His opinions weren’t based on sufficient facts or data. Moreover, Judge Moody said that no expert is truly qualified to opine on a person's credibility or state of mind—determinations typically left to the finder of fact.The expert testimony, like the expert's report, wouldn’t assist the trier of fact because Plaintiff admitted that he failed to set the parking brake. The part of the expert's report where he opined that Plaintiff didn’t engage the parking brake, didn’t put the vehicle in neutral, and didn’t follow proper procedure was superfluous because Plaintiff conceded these points.The expert's opinion, which focused on the reasonableness of Plaintiff's actions—and which was clearly not available to the City at the time that it made the decision to terminate Plaintiff—would offer no assistance to the trier of fact. Plaintiff's motion to strike Defendant's expert witness and his expert report was granted. 

Internal Combustion Engines Expert 505631

Expertise Description

I am a mechanical engineer, with over 40 years of experience in the field of internal combustion engines, specializing in diesel and natural gas engines and related technologies. I started my career in 1973 with a company where I gained valuable experience in engine design and development, before moving to the university sector in 1981. I developed research programs in diesel and natural gas engine technologies and taught bachelors’ and master’s courses in diesel engine technology, and advised graduate students at doctoral and masters levels in the field of internal combustion engine technology. In business, I have also managed the development of new technologies and innovation through small teams – processing to the leadership of a large global engineering organization with greater than 2,000 engineers. My leadership role in innovation and technology development, new product development and support has included managing resources and product development in both leading and emerging markets – most notably Brazil, India, and China. I was directly involved with almost every new engine and exhaust emission program from 1993 to 2014. These programs delivered successful engine designs with dramatic reductions of criteria pollutants, oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) of over 98% to near-zero levels. I provided emission regulations promulgated by EPA and California. I have prior expert witness experience with consultation and deposition.

Automotive Engineering Expert 508109

Expertise Description

I have more than 5 years experience in the automotive engineering sector with specific experience in the automotive manufacturing of both OEM components and full vehicle assembly / manufacturing. My Ph.D. research is on complex systems design and the development of computational representations and reasoning in design. I have worked on multiple sponsored projects funded by partners such as NASA, Michelin, and BMW. I currently serve as an assistant professor at a University where I work on a multitude of automotive and systems engineering projects.

Trucking Repair 173222

Expertise Description

I have more than 25 years experience in the Trucking Repair Industry. I was a mechanic of a worldwide Hazmat producer and transporter for 2 years and Shop Foreman for 10. I am a heavy-duty truck and trailer mechanic who can troubleshoot, inspect and repair all aspects of truck and trailer systems, and engine management. I am also well adept at Cryogenic, HAZMAT, CO2 and L.N.G. plumbing and pumping repair, as well as Dot and Bit inspections. I have over 20 certificates of training in the repair of class 6 and class 8 vehicles. I have prior expert witness experience.

Metallurgical Engineering 141418

Expertise Description

I have 40 years experience in metallurgical engineering and failure analysis, accident reconstruction, welding inspections, OSHA regulations, railroad litigation, and product liability. I have prior expert witness experience with consultations, deposition, and courtroom testimony.

Accident Reconstruction 128477

Expertise Description

I have over 25 years experience in collision reconstruction, defect investigations, biomechanical analysis, and injury causation studies. My expertise includes accident reconstruction, motorcycle accident reconstruction, pedestrian collisions and accident reconstruction, biomedical analysis, mechanical commercial vehicle accident reconstruction, bio-mechanical analysis, tire failure analysis, mechanical commercial vehicle inspection, defect investigations, air bag download, commercial control module downloads, speed determination, crash worthiness, restraint analysis. I have over 15 years expert witness experience with consultations, deposition, and courtroom testimony.

Industrial Workplace Safety 46349

Expertise Description

I have over 15 years experience in areas of industrial workplace safety and training, especially in mining, tunneling, construction, and explosives. I have experience in trucks and trucking, including general maintenance and air brakes; surface and underground mining; tunneling; construction; general safety; and Cal/OSHA. I have conducted safety training in all phases of mining for employers, employees, and contractors in the mining and tunneling industries, and safety training in explosives, tire, welding, and other associated industries. I have administered examinations for blasting, gas quality testing, explosion cause and origin, and safety representative licenses in the mining and construction industries. I have more than 5 years expert witness experience.

Mechanical Engineering 9030

Expertise Description

I have over 30 years in Mechanical Engineering. My experience includes: failure analysis of mechanical systems; accident investigation and reconstruction; human factors and ergonomics; safety design reviews and failure prevention methods; automation; robotics and microprocessor application; and warnings and safety information analysis and development. I have performed a wide range of work in the area of tire, wheel, and brake systems. My work includes numerous inspections, testing, failure analysis, accident reconstruction, and employee training on tires, wheels, and brakes related to trucks, passenger vehicles, motorcycles, off-road vehicles, recreational vehicles, and golf cars. I have conducted surveys and performed risk analysis related to tires, wheels, and brakes. I have prior expert witness experience with consultations, deposition, and courtroom testimony.

Commercial Vehicles 361773

Expertise Description

I have more than 45 years experience in Commercial Vehicles. My areas of expertise include Commercial Vehicles, Commercial driver’s license qualifications, Driver’s license endorsements, Hours of Service – Intrastate and Interstate, Commercial vehicle maintenance requirements and records, Commercial driver training and records, On highway commercial vehicle enforcement, Commercial vehicle weight enforcement, Commercial vehicle size requirements, brake design, and Commercial vehicle air brake requirements. I have prior expert witness experience.

Motorcycle 450715

Expertise Description

I have more than 35 years experience in the field of riding street motorcycles with expertise in a large variety of street motorcycles across all weights (up to 800 lbs full dress touring machines), testing all major brands, various road conditions, tire testing, and testing on major racetracks. I have tested machines from every major manufacturer. I have good mechanical knowledge including engine, suspension, brakes and electronics systems including experience with many different Traction Control and ABS (anti-lock braking) systems and how they interact with the machine and prevailing conditions.

Motorcycle 426386

Expertise Description

I have more than 15 years experience in the field of Motorcycle Safety. My expertise includes general motorcycle maintenance, motorcycle safety enlightenment, motorcycle instruction, traffic safety, and advanced-level instruction. I am highly familiar with motorcycle mechanics, crash / accidents, behavior of beginner riders, traction management, brake design, and emergency breaking. I have prior expert witness experience with consultations and deposition.

Mobility 425522

Expertise Description

I have over 25 years experience in the field of Mobility Consulting. My extensive experience includes market research, adaptive industry, mechanical hand control, electron gas/brake and steering system, brake design, wheelchair lift, OSHA regulations, vehicle fire, unoccupied wheelchair lift, transfer seatbase, hydraulic backup steering system, and wheelchair restraint. I have over 10 years expert witness experience.

Bicycles 367894

Expertise Description

I have more than 30 years of experience in the fields of Cycling, Bicycles, Highways & Bikeways, and Traffic Laws. My expertise includes effective cycling and safety; bikeway systems; safe traffic principles and laws; and bicycle accidents and reconstruction. My consultations consist of bicycle handling characteristics, such as bicycle frame integrity, brake design, and front fork failure; bicycle facilities, such as hazard warnings, obstructions, and surface defects; cyclist behavior, such as instruction quality, accuracy, and skills; and cyclists’ right to use the road, including restricted roads, mandatory bike path laws, and product safety regulations. I have over 35 years of expert witness experience with consultations, deposition, and courtroom testimony.