Friday, January 8, 2021

Judge Nealon of Lackawanna County Addresses Admissibility of Liability Expert in Trucking Accident Case



In the case of Hand v. DiMauro, No. 15-CV-4470 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Dec. 22, 2020 Nealon, J.), the court addressed several notable issues in a rear-end collision case involving a tractor trailer. 

According to the Opinion, the Defendant driver and his employer filed motions seeking to preclude the trucking safety expert’s opinions pursuant to Pa. R.E. 702(c) and Pa. R.C.P. 207.1 on the grounds that the expert’s methodology was allegedly not generally accepted in the motor carrier industry.  In the alternative, the Defendants sought to depose the expert under Pa. R.C.P. 4003.5(a)(2) in support of their Motion to Preclude.

The court ruled that the evidence submitted by the parties did not establish that the Plaintiff’s expert relied upon any novel scientific evidence or a methodology that has failed to gain general acceptance in the commercial transportation industry. 

Rather, the court found that the Plaintiff’s expert relied upon studies conducted by transportation safety organizations along with policies adopted by large commercial transportation companies and insurance companies. The expert recognized and applied a trucking industry standard requiring the removal of a commercial driver from service based upon certain a number of prior preventable crashes and traffic violations within a certain period of time.

The court therefore found the defense's Motion to Preclude the Plaintiff’s Expert Opinion to be without merit. As such, the court saw no need for an evidentiary hearing on the validity of the expert opinion or any reason to allow for a deposition of the expert.

The Defendants had also filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment that was addressed in this Opinion as well. 

In that motion, the Defendants sought the dismissal of any direct negligence claims against the employer for negligent supervision or retention of its driver, and all recklessness and punitive damages claims against the driver and his employer.

Judge Nealon granted the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment with regards to the Plaintiff’s claims of recklessness and punitive damages against the driver as no evidence of any reckless conduct by the driver was produced in the record. 

However, the court noted that the record did contain sufficient evidence, including opinions of an industry expert, to allow the claims of direct negligence, recklessness, and punitive damages to proceed against the Defendant employer.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.


Source of image:  Photo by Matthew T. Rader from Pexels.com

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