Ladder Design Expert Witness Testimony Excluded as Outside Metallurgical Engineering Expertise


In Kuzmech v. Werner Ladder Company the US District Court for the District of Connecticut ruled that a ladder design expert witness’s testimony should be excluded for lack of substantiation and use of unreliable methods. The Court reasoned:

Although [name of expert] is qualified by experience, training and education, his testimony is neither grounded on sufficient facts or data, the product of reliable principles and methods nor is there any indication that [name of expert] applied those principles and methods reliably to the facts of this case. Moreover, the Plaintiffs had failed to satisfy any of the four factors identified in Daubert with respect to [name of expert]’s testimony. [name of expert]’s conclusions that the ladder was defective are based on nothing more than his cursory visual inspection of the ladder and rough measurements. [name of expert] admittedly did not undertake any testing of the defective ladder despite acknowledging that such testing was not only feasible but not difficult to accomplish. Indeed, [name of expert] noted that in past ladder cases he has done such analytical work including hardness measurements, chemical analysis, SEM work, and grain structure measurements. In fact, [name of expert] testified that he would have liked to have done some testing in this case on the diagonal knee brace to determine what compressive load caused buckling but had not been requested to do so.

In both his report and his deposition testimony, [name of expert] fails to identify what principles and methods he relies upon in coming to his conclusions besides his conclusory statement that such conclusions were based on a “reasonable degree of engineering certainty.” As the Supreme Court has made clear “nothing in either Daubert or the Federal Rules of Evidence requires a district court to admit opinion evidence that is connected to existing data only by the ipse dixit of the expert.” Gen. Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 146, 118 S.Ct. 512, 139 L.Ed.2d 508 (1997). Without any explanation of the reasoning, any calculations or other type of scientific evidence supporting [name of expert]’s conclusions, his testimony is opinion evidence that is mere ipse dixit of the expert. See Smith, 2005 WL 2076570, at (holding that “lack of calculations, alternative design, testing, or supporting research material renders it nearly impossible to discern precisely what [the expert’s] methodology in coming to his conclusion was. The expert report consists almost exclusively of his observations concerning the physical characteristics of the chair without supporting measurements, and the conclusion that the chair could not withstand a rocking motion … leav[ing] the Court with mere ipse dixit, or say so of the witness.”) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).