Expert and other witnesses often play a key role in personal injury cases. That’s particularly true in car accident litigation, which regularly pits one driver’s version of the events against the other driver’s version. A recent case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia shows just how far good witnesses can go.
Mr. Nease was injured in a car accident while driving a 2001 Ford Ranger. He and his Wife later sued Ford, alleging claims for strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty. Mr. Nease said in the trial that followed that he was driving the car normally when the accelerator pedal became stuck in the down position, and the car sped out of control before striking a brick wall.
The Neases called an engineer named Mr. Sero as an expert witness at the trial. He said he used a tool called a borescope to examine the car’s controls through a small hole, performed other visual inspections, collected and reviewed the vehicle’s data, and applied general engineering principles in reaching a conclusion about how the crash occurred. Sero testified that a defect in the vehicle bound its speed control cable, causing the throttle to stick in the open position and making the brakes ineffective. A jury later awarded the Seros more than $3 million in damages on the strict liability claim.
The district court denied Ford’s motion for judgment as a matter of law, in which the company argued that Sero’s testimony wasn’t sufficient to prove that the car was defective. The Court rejected Ford’s argument that Sero had relied on “junk science.” Although Sero was unable to distinguish at trial between the borescope examination he performed in another case in which he found no defect and the examination he performed in this case, the Court said his opinion was based on a number of factors.
The Court also noted that Sero’s opinion was supported by other witness testimony, including that of Mr. Nease. A witness said the car’s wheels continued to spin after it hit the wall and until the engine exploded. A police officer who arrived at the scene said he found the accelerator in the down position. “All of this evidence is consistent with Mr. Sero’s opinion that the pedal was stuck,” the Court said. “Given Mr. Sero’s explanation as to how he reached his opinion and the totality of his testimony, the Court finds that Mr. Sero did not engage in ‘junk science.’”
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, the West Virginia child injury lawyers at the Wolfe Law Firm can help. Call us at 1-877-637-5756 or contact us online for a free consultation.
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