United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
XINIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
is Defendant's Motion to Exclude the expert testimony of
Plaintiff's two liability experts, Nancy Grugle, Ph.D.,
and Dennis Eckstine, ECF No. 24. The issues are fully briefed
and a hearing was held on November 28, 2017. For the reasons
stated below, Defendant's Motion to Exclude is GRANTED in
part and DENIED in part.
27, 2013, Plaintiff Frank Ondrushek (“Ondrushek”)
was severely injured while operating an AA755 aerial lift
truck manufactured by Defendant Altec Industries
(“Altec”). Specifically, Ondrushek, seated in
front of the truck's lower controls, was lowering the
truck's bucket when he was hit by the bucket, fracturing
several vertebrae in his spine. Ondrushek, claiming that the
accident arose from Defendant's faulty design of the
AA755, filed this suit in Prince George's County Circuit
Court on June 27, 2016. Altec removed the action to this
Court based on diversity jurisdiction on August 28, 2016.
After the close of discovery, Altec moved to strike
Plaintiff's liability experts, Dr. Nancy Grugle and Mr.
Dennis Eckstine. Plaintiff has opposed the motion. The Court
addresses each expert in turn.
this action is properly before the Court on diversity
jurisdiction, Maryland choice-of-law rules apply. See
Wells v. Liddy, 186 F.3d 505, 521 (4th Cir. 1999)
(“A federal court sitting in diversity must apply the
choice-of-law rules from the forum state.”). For causes
of action sounding in tort, Maryland adheres to the lex
loci delicti rule, applying the substantive law of the
state in which the alleged tort took place. Philip Morris
Inc. v. Angeletti, 358 Md. 689, 744-45 (2000).
Expert Testimony of Dennis Eckstine
offers Dennis Eckstine, a mechanical engineer, to opine that
the location of the AA755's lower controls places the
operator in a “pinch point” or crush area that
poses an unnecessary risk of the bucket hitting the operator
on its descent. Eckstine further opines that the lower
controls could have been placed further away from the perch
(the area where the bucket comes to a rest when lowered), at
minimal cost and with no additional safety risks. Eckstine
also notes that, as designed, the AA755 fails to warn the
operator that it is not safe to be in the vicinity of the
controls while the bucket is descending to the perch.
Eckstine concludes that the placement and location of the
aerial lift system and lower controls were the proximate
cause of Plaintiff's injuries. Eckstine bases his
opinions on his own experience in designing similar trucks,
examination of the AA755, and comparing the placement of the
lower controls to the control placement of other similar
aerial lift trucks manufactured by Altec.
does not quibble with Eckstine's qualifications as a
mechanical engineer with extensive industry experience
specific to aerial lift trucks. Cf. Higginbotham v. KCS
Intern. Inc., 85 Fed.Appx. 911 (4th Cir. 2004) (expert
opinion on design defect excluded where expert has no
training in relevant industry or experience in design or
manufacturing specific product). Nor does Altec challenge the
relevance of Eckstine's opinions. Rather, Altec
challenges Eckstine's methodology in concluding that
AA755 was flawed in its placement of the lower controls. Rule
702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence governs the analysis.
The rule provides:
A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill,
experience, training, or education may testify in the form of
an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other
specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to
understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and
methods to the ...