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Gaddy v. Terex Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

October 13, 2017

JEFFREY GADDY, Plaintiff,
v.
TEREX CORPORATION, TEREX SOUTH DAKOTA, INC., and TEREX UTILITIES, INC., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Jeffrey Gaddy's (“Plaintiff”) Motion to Exclude Certain Opinion Testimony of Vijay K. Saraf, Ph.D., P.E. [378] (the “Motion”).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendants Terex Corporation, Terex South Dakota, Inc., and Terex Utilities, Inc. (collectively, “Defendants”) intend to offer Dr. Saraf, a registered professional engineer with a doctorate in civil engineering, to testify at trial as an expert in structural mechanics, fatigue design, and stress concentration areas. (Brief in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Exclude Certain Opinion Testimony of Vijay Saraf [389] (“Response”) [389] at 4). Dr. Saraf specializes in the investigation of failures of steel, concrete, composite, and wood structures and components, damage assessment and design of repairs, and analysis of the effects of blast or impact. (Dr. Saraf's Expert Report [378.2] (“Expert Report”) at 6). Dr. Saraf's expertise extends to the evaluation of bridges, buildings and building components, pipelines and other buried structures, storage tanks and silos, shoring systems, cranes and mechanical equipment, and marine structures. (Id. at 38). Dr. Saraf has performed numerous reviews of design and construction/installation procedures to check for code compliance and/or assess available margin of safety in manners relating to structural or process failure. (Id.). He states that “[he] is familiar with the ANSI Standard for ‘vehicle mounted elevating and rotating aerial devices, ' ANSI 92.2, and other SAE and ANSI Standards regarding cranes and lifting devices.” (Id. at v). Dr. Saraf received his Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of Michigan in 1997. He is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Institute of Steel Construction, and the Society of Petroleum Engineers. (Id.at 39). He has also published numerous articles- primarily related to engineering issues surrounding bridges. (Id. at 39-40).

         The opinions Dr. Saraf may offer at trial, and which Plaintiff seeks in his Motion to exclude, are as follows:

(1) The fatigue cracks at the failure location likely existed for many years prior to the accident and would have been observed had the unit been properly inspected and maintained. . . . Mr. Morrill's FEA models are also inconsistent with Plaintiff's expert Dr. David Pope's assertion that it took over five years for the cracks to form in the incident boom. . . . Dr. David Pope testified that the cracks that led to the boom failure were quite significant in length and had existed for several years prior to the boom failure. ([378.2] at vi, vii, 21, 26).
(2) At the time of the incident, both the incident aerial device and Ace Tree Surgery's other XT Series aerial device (S/N 2030621804) contained several cracks that would have been discovered had they been properly inspected and maintained. The incident bucket was badly damaged from years of use and should have been repaired prior to the incident. . . . Post-incident inspections revealed additional cracks at the turntable weldment (Figure 6a), the lower boom cylinder connection to the elbow cylinder in the incident boom (Figure 6b), and in the upper boom connection to the elbow cylinder in both aerial devices (Figure 7). These are large cracks and should have been discovered during routine and periodic inspection if these inspections had been performed. ([378.2] at vi, 8).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, expert testimony is admissible if: (1) the expert is qualified to testify regarding the subject matter of his or her testimony; (2) the methodology that the expert used to reach his or her conclusions is sufficiently reliable; and (3) the expert's testimony will assist the trier of fact in understanding the evidence or in determining a fact at issue. United States v. Scott, 403 F. App'x 392, 397 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing United States v. Frazier, 387 F.3d 1244, 1260 (11th Cir. 2004)) (en banc); Fed.R.Evid. 702.

         An expert “may be qualified in various ways.” U.S. v. Frazier, 387 F.3d 1244, 1260-61 (11th Cir. 2004). That is, “[w]hile scientific training or education may provide a possible means to qualify, experience in a field may offer another path to expert status.” Id. at 1261. Experience standing alone is not, however, “a sufficient foundation rendering reliable any conceivable opinion the expert may express.” Id. Instead, “the reliability criterion remains a discrete, independent, and important requirement for admissibility.” Id.

         The reliability of a scientific expert opinion may be established by evaluating a number of factors, including (1) “whether the expert's theory can be and has been tested; (2) whether the theory has been subject to peer review and publication; (3) the known or potential rate of error of the particular scientific technique; and (4) whether the technique is generally accepted in the scientific community.” Id. at 1262. Further, “[t]he same criteria [] used to assess the reliability of a scientific opinion may be used to evaluate the reliability of non-scientific, experience-based testimony.” Id.; see also, Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, 562 U.S. 137, 152 (1999).

         The last requirement-that the opinion assist the trier of fact in understanding the evidence or determining a fact at issue-may be satisfied where “it concerns matters that are beyond the understanding of the average lay person.” Id. For example, expert testimony “generally will not help the trier of fact when it offers nothing ...


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