Expert Article Library

Window Kills Man in Ford Truck

Case Name: Maxwell v. Ford Motor Co. (

(NOTE: unpublished case)

Court: Northern District of West Virginia; U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Date: December 28, 2005

Type of Expert: Donald Phillips, auto glass design

Robert Rucoba

Issue: 1) Can court disallow expert due to questions of objectivity?

2) Can court allow testimony of expert based on statistics that would on their own be ruled inadmissible?

Summary of case: Plaintiff (driver’s wife) sued Defendant truck maker claimingthat the windows were defectively designed and allowed driver to be partially ejected, causing his death.

Role of the expert: Two experts:

1) Plaintiff’s expert, Donald Phillips, claimed the glass was defective, but the trial court questioned his objectivity and disallowed his testimony.

2) Trial court allowed Defendant’s expert testimony (Robert Rucoba), which relied on government statistics for its conclusions.

Expert analysis: (1) Defendant claimed trial court abused its discretion in disallowing its expert testimony. Court of Appeals ruled that disallowing Plaintiff’s expert testimony was okay because court has great leeway in determining reliability of experts.

(2)Defendant argued that use of government statistics wouldn’t be admissible as evidence, so Plaintiff expert testimony should be disallowed. Court of Appeals ruled Defendant’s expert testimony was admissible because other experts in the field also use government statistics and therefore it’s “reasonably reliable” data. Even though the data may not be admissible in court on its own, experts can use it to make informed conclusions.

Summary prepared by J. Baik, Student, University of San Francisco School of Law