The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that the testimony of a plaintiffs’ expert, who opined that an equipment defect was responsible for an industrial accident and an alternative design would have prevented the disabling injury, was properly ruled admissible under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). Lapsley v. Xtek, Inc., No. 11-3313 (7th Cir., decided July 27, 2012). Accordingly, the court upheld a $2.97-million jury verdict for the plaintiffs.

The defendant challenged the plaintiffs’ expert on the ground that his opinions on “causation, alternate design and reasonable care or foreseeability lacked scientific basis and should have been excluded by the district court.” The injury at issue resulted from a jet of grease propelled from the defendant’s machine with such force that it made a hole in the plaintiff employee’s chest, broke several ribs, filled his chest cavity, and created an exit wound through his back. After 11 surgeries, his physicians were apparently unable to remove all the grease, some of which has fused with the plaintiff’s internal tissues.  

Noting that the scientific physics principles on which expert Gary Hutter supported his opinions “were published centuries ago by some of the most famous names in science, and those principles have been used and tested (i.e., peer reviewed) by physicists and engineers for centuries,” the court found that his mathematical models “appear to be well-grounded in the facts and data available.” The opinion reproduces some of the expert’s mathematical notations and observes that they represent “basic equations of classical mechanics … first published in 1687 by Sir Isaac Newton” and further developed by others relying on Newtonian principles since then.

The opinion reproduces some of the expert’s mathematical notations and observes that they represent “basic equations of classical mechanics … first published in 1687 by Sir Isaac Newton” and further developed by others relying on Newtonian principles since then.