eNotes: Liability – June 2022 – Virginia
June 02, 2022
SIGNIFICANT CASE SUMMARIES
VA CASE SUMMARY
Riddick v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co.
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
Decided: April 20, 2022
Individuals must connect industry experience to specialized knowledge and specific scientific principles to qualify as expert witnesses.
Plaintiff Raymond Riddick, in his capacity as a UPS truck driver, delivered new railroad car wheel sets, weighing approximately 3,500 pounds each, to Norfolk Southern Railway. After two Norfolk Southern employees used forklifts to remove the new wheel sets from the trailer, Riddick and the employees began placing used wheel sets on the trailer for Riddick to transport. While Riddick was standing on the back of the trailer, one of the employees allegedly dropped a wheel set onto the back of the trailer in a manner contrary to safety procedures. Riddick fell off the trailer to avoid being hit by the wheel set and suffered injury.
Riddick designated Philip Graham as an expert witness in railroad operations based on his 39 years of industry experience working as a journeyman carman. Norfolk Southern sought to exclude Graham’s testimony on several grounds, including: (1) Graham’s reports lack explanation and do not specify any standards, technical or scientific principles, or other methods which support his conclusions; (2) Graham invades the province of the jury and unfairly prejudices the defense by weighing disputed facts and drawing overbroad conclusions; (3) Graham offers only a qualified opinion without the certainty required by an expert; (4) Graham is not sufficiently experienced to render the opinions he reached; and (5) Graham’s opinions fall within the knowledge of the jury and require no special expertise.
Expert witness testimony is governed by Rules 702 and 104(a) of the Federal Rules of Evidence and cases flowing from Daubert v. Merrill Dow Pharms., Inc. While Daubert established a five-factor test a court may consider when evaluating expert testimony, the analysis is flexible and focuses primarily on the principles and methodology employed, rather than the conclusion reached. Here, Graham’s report did not connect his work experience to any specialized expertise necessary to qualify as an expert witness for trial. Graham’s opinions are also unconnected to any specific principle or method as required by Rule 702. Graham was not permitted to offer legal conclusions, including that Norfolk Southern “negligently failed” to perform a required action, as it instructed the jury how to decide the case, rather than addressed the conduct of those involved in the disputed incident.
Questions about this case can be directed to Mackenzie Payne at (571) 470-1906 or firstname.lastname@example.org.