In the 2020 case of Blair v Coney, the Court discussed the admission of expert opinions in thorough detail. No. 2019-CC-00795, 2020 La. LEXIS 670 (La. Apr. 3, 2020). Under the landmark case Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, extensive inquiry into the reliability of the facts and methodology upon which a testifying expert’s opinion is grounded is required, though a reliable basis for the opinion is presumed. 509 U.S. 579 (1993). This inquiry ensures that “scientific testimony or evidence admitted is not only relevant, but reliable.” Blair, 2020 La. Lexis 670, *12 (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 589).
In Blair, the Court noted that while the testifying expert was qualified as an expert, his opinion was nevertheless unreliable, applying the Daubert standard. See id. at *14. Dr. Charles E. “Ted” Bain obtained a degree in nuclear engineering and was subsequently licensed to practice medicine. Id. at *3. He was never licensed as a professional engineer, an orthopedic surgeon, or an expert in pain management. Id. at *3. In spite of these shortcomings, Dr. Bain was published in the field of biomechanics, had served as an adjunct professor on the subject of injury causation analysis, and had completed an accredited course on Traffic Accident Reconstruction. Id. at *3-*4. At the time he rendered his expert testimony, Dr. Bain worked for Biodynamics Research Corporation, which conducted quasi-static collision tests; it is from this data that he drew his conclusions. Id. at *2.
In stating that the expert opinion was insufficient (applying the Daubert standard), the Court noted that the biomechanic and injury causation analyst did not: 1) recreate the actual crash scene at issue in the case, 2) testify as to the reliability or potential errors of the analysis, or 3) help the jury determine the fact at issue through his analysis. Id. at *15. These shortcomings were based on Dr. Bain’s report in which he stated the methods used to calculate the force of the collision at issue; this calculation then served as a basis for his injury causation analysis. Id. at *4. Though the expert diligently reviewed photographs of the scene, police reports, and statements by the parties, he was unable to point to any factual support for the conclusions he reached. Id. at *17. For example, the doctor described the Plaintiff’s position within the car without any proof as to how he was actually seated; however, this assumption served as the basis for his ultimate conclusion that the injury was not related to the collision. Id. at *20. The Court placed particular emphasis on the fact that Dr. Bain did not exhaust all investigatory options, such as speaking with a damages appraiser and inspecting the vehicles, and instead relied heavily on photographs of the scene and models of similar cars. Id. at *21. The Court also noted the fact that the ultimate opinion addressed none of these shortcomings or limitations of the analysis. Id. at *22. For all these reasons, the Court ultimately found that the lower district court did not abuse its discretion and properly excluded this testimony. Id. at *23.