United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
a tort case in which Plaintiff, The Estate of John Arama
(“Arama”), asserts a claim for negligence against
Defendants Bryant Winfield and his employer, P.B. Industries,
Inc. On June 17, 2013, at approximately 3:55 a.m., Arama was
operating a motorcycle eastbound on Interstate 80 near Gary,
Indiana. For unknown reasons, Arama became separated from his
motorcycle and landed in one of the lanes of travel. Shortly
after this, a semi-truck driven by Winfield came upon the
scene and hit Arama, who incurred fatal injuries as a result
of the collision.
before the Court are motions filed by each party seeking to
strike testimony of the opposing party's expert witnesses
[DE 40, 42, 45]. The motions are fully briefed and ripe for
ruling. The parties are DIRECTED to read the entirety of the
order with respect to the limitations imposed on the
testimony of each expert witness.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Evidence 702 governs the admission of testimony by
expert witnesses. Under Rule 702, “[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 the following criteria are met:
(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or 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 facts of the case.
Fed. R. Evid. 702. Rule 702, as a conjunctive test, requires
all four criteria be met.
Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the
Supreme Court emphasized the court's
“gatekeeping” role in ensuring that expert
testimony meets the criteria set forth in Rule 702. 509 U.S.
579 (1993). Thus, the court must ensure that any expert
testimony admitted is “not only relevant, but
reliable.” Id. at 589. A court, however, does
not evaluate “the ultimate correctness of the
expert's conclusions.” C.W. ex rel. Wood v.
Textron, Inc., 807 F.3d 827, 834 (quoting Shultz v.
Akzo Nobel Paints, LLC, 721 F.3d 426, 431 (7th Cir.
2013)). Rather, a court is required to consider only the
“principles and methodology, ” not the
conclusions generated. Shultz, 721 F.3d at 432
(quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 595). “So long
as the principles and methodology reflect reliable scientific
practice, ‘vigorous cross-examination, presentation of
contrary evidence, and careful instruction on the burden of
proof are the traditional and appropriate means of attacking
shaky but admissible evidence.'” Id.
(quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 596).
party has retained two expert witnesses to offer opinions
that relate to the issue of liability in this case-that is,
whether Winfield could or should have avoided hitting Arama.
Central to the dispute is Winfield's versions of the
accident. When deposed,  Winfield indicated that he saw a dark
object (possibly a tire tread) beyond his headlights and he
slowed his vehicle to 20 miles an hour. He further indicated
that once his headlights hit the object, he could tell it was
a person, but he also stated that it wasn't until a truck
in front of him switched lanes when he realized that the
object (now 20 to 30 feet away) was a person. Winfield's
statement to police taken immediately after the accident
reveals no reference to another vehicle being in front of him
thereby blocking his view [DE 53-6 at 8].
Court now addresses Plaintiff's objections to
Defendants' experts, and then addresses Defendants'
objections to Plaintiff's experts.
OBJECTIONS TO DEFENDANTS' EXPERT WITNESSES
claims that Defendants' expert witness reports are not
founded on sufficient data, nor are the experts'
conclusions the product of reliable principles and methods.
Plaintiff argues that both experts merely parrot the
statements of Winfield and others without applying any
scientific methodology to the statements.
G. Stanley Sangdahl, P.E.
Stanley Sangdahl (“Sangdahl”) holds a
Bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and is a
licensed professional engineer in Illinois [DE 40-1 at 10].
He is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Traffic
Accident Reconstruction and has engaged in continuing
education in the field of accident reconstruction.
Id. at 12-13. Given his extensive education and
experience, Plaintiff does not question whether Sangdahl is
qualified to give opinions regarding the dynamics of the
vehicular accident. For this reason, the Court considers
Plaintiff's sole argument concerning whether
Sangdahl's opinions employ scientific expertise so as to
be helpful to the jury.
investigative report indicates that after reviewing various
materials and personally inspecting only Arama's
motorcycle in 2015 [DE 40-1 at 3-4], he arrived at five
conclusions, as follows:
1. John Arama became separated from his Roadhawk trike,
likely from contact with an unidentified vehicle, and came to
rest in the second lane from the right on eastbound
Interstate 80/94. He was dressed in black leather pants and
2. As Bryant Winfield approached the area where John Arama
lay, his initial view of the road ahead was blocked by
another tractor semi-trailer rig. Additionally, there were
other vehicles on either side preventing him moving to
another lane of travel. When these and other surrounding
vehicles ahead of Mr. Winfield began to slow, he slowed his
truck to match their speed but would have initially lost his
safe following distance.
3. Mr. Winfield was unaware of the presence of Arama until
the tractor semi-trailer unit ahead of Mr. Winfield moved to
another lane. Because of the traffic conditions Mr. Winfield
could not avoid contact with John Arama.
4. None of the safety violations found by the Indiana State
Police Commercial Vehicle Inspection of Bryant Winfield's
tractor semi-trailer rig were a factor in this accident. The
notes violations were strictly compliance issues and would
not have any significant impact on performance.
a) There is no evidence that Mr. Winfield was fatigued or
distracted during the time prior to the accident.
b) The issues with the high beam headlights, hazard lights
and turn signal are moot since none of these lights were in
use at the time of the incident.
c) The inoperative brake on the trailer would have reduced
the braking capability by less than 10% which is equivalent
to approximately 2 feet of additional stopping distance at 20
mph in an emergency. Normal braking would not have been
noticeably effected (sic) at all.
d) The small air leak in the fitting at the left front brake
would not have any negative impact on braking. The brake