Expert Article Library

Court Finds Decision to Admit Experts' Evidence Not an Abuse of Process

Case Name: One Beacon Insurance Co. v. Broadcast Development Group, Inc. (unpublished) (Click here for the full text of the case)

Court: United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit; on appeal from District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky

Date: August 29, 2005

Expert: Richard Roberts, metallurgist; Dr. Joseph Vellozzi, tower design expert; Ernie Jones, licensed structural engineer.

Issues: Was the district court’s decision to admit the evidence of BDG’s 3 experts an abuse of process.

Summary of case: This case involved the collapse of a partly constructed broadcasting tower. One Beacon, the plaintiff, sued BDG, the defendant, claiming that BDG had been negligent and caused the tower to collapse by failing to properly secure guy wires to the tower. BDG counterclaimed, arguing that the tower collapsed because the welds holding the flanges to the legs of the tower were negligently designed and manufactured. The Court of Appeals ultimately concluded that although One Beacon raised valid points about the weight to be given to the testimony of the experts, it did not establish that the district court abused its discretion by admitting their testimony.

Role of the expert: Roberts: Richard Roberts, the metallurgist, testified that the welds used in the construction were not of the standard required by the design drawings, and that it would have been impossible for welders to create welds that were strong enough given the type of weld called for in the design drawings. Vellozzi: Dr. Vellozzi, the tower design expert, testified that although it was possible that the tower would not have collapsed if the welds have been properly executed, it was “equally possible” that the tower would have collapsed anyway. Dr. Vellozzi also testified that the welds were weaker that the bolts. Jones: Ernie Jones testified that defective welds cause the tower collapse.

Challenges to the Expert's testimony: Roberts: One Beacon argued that Roberts’ testimony was irrelevant because, amongst other things, Roberts failed to testify as to the cause of the collapse and his testimony was not relied upon by other experts. The Court of Appeals held that Robert’s evidence was relevant (and therefore admissible) because it addressed one of BDG’s central claims, that the welds were defective. Vellozzi: One Beacon challenged Dr. Vellozzi’s testimony on 2 bases. First, Dr. Vellozzi failed to testify as to the probable cause of the tower collapse. Second, Velozzi’s testimony relating to the relative strengths of the welds and bolts was contradicted by the evidence. The Court of Appeals held that Dr. Vellozzi’s testimony should not be dismissed just because Vellozzi did not testify as to the probable cause of the tower collapse. Rather, Vellozzi’s failure to testify as to cause was relevant to the weight of his testimony, not its admissibility. The Court of Appeals held that not every expert witness is required to opine as to causation. Similarly, the fact that some of Dr. Vellozzi’s testimony was contradicted by evidence went to the weight to be accorded to his testimony, and not admissibility. Jones: One Beacon argued that the assumptions underlying Jones’ testimony were not factually based. The Court of Appeals found One Beacon’s objection to Jones’ testimony “unpersuasive.” One Beacon failed to prove that Jones’ estimates were merely based on “guesswork.”

Summary prepared by R. Zapparoni