Expert Article Library

Expert Testimony Excluded For Lack of Testing

Case Name: Mohney v. USA Hockey Inc. (unpublished) (Click here for the full text of the case)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 Northern District of Ohio

Date: July 14, 2005

Expert: Expert in the field of biomechanical engineering, Dr. Collins. Expert in the field of mechanical engineering, Johanson

Issues: Did the district court abuse its discretion in excluding the expert evidence of Dr. Collins and Johanson

Summary of case: Mohney, the plaintiff, suffered a spinal injury during a hockey try-out and was left a quadriplegic. He brought an action against Bauer, the manufacturer of the helmet he was wearing at the time of the accident. Mohney was injured when he crashed into the boards. The parties disagreed about the way in which Mohney’s head made contact with the boards. The district court found in favor of Bauer. The plaintiff appealed arguing, amongst other things, that the district court erred in excluding certain expert testimony.

Role of the expert: Mohney contended that he hit the boards face-forward and not in a crown-first position as contended by Bauer. Dr Collins provided testimony that Mohney’s injury could have resulted from making face-first impact with the boards. His analysis was based on: viewing the helmet and mask; watching a video tape of the accident; measuring the helmet and mask; and performing mathematical calculations. Johanson provided expert opinion on the incompatibility of Mohney’s helmet and mask.

Challenges to the Expert's testimony: The district court excluded Dr. Collins’ testimony because it found his calculations and methods to be unreliable. While Dr. Collins performed mathematical calculations, his calculations were based on assumptions and estimates. The Court of Appeals agreed, noting that Dr. Collins did not perform any scientific testing or accident reconstruction, and his opinion was not supported by published work or generally accepted in the scientific community. The district court excluded Johanson’s opinion because Johanson failed to perform adequate tests and based his opinion solely on viewing and measuring the helmet and mask. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court, stating that the testing Johanson did perform was not reliable according to the Daubert factors.

Summary prepared by R. Zapparoni