Expert’s testimony should have been admissible in amputation case

A district court should not have excluded an expert’s testimony, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday in reinstating a case in which a forklift operator’s leg was amputated as a result of an accident.

Adelaida Anderson was working as a forklift operator at a FedEx warehouse in Effingham, Illinois, in July 2017, when she hit a bump and fell out of the forklift on the floor, according to the ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago in Adelaida Anderson et al. v. The Raymond Corp.

Ms. Anderson fell out of the forklift on the floor. The forklift continued moving and ran over her leg, resulting in injuries that necessitated its amputation.

Ms. Anderson filed suit against the forklift’s manufacturer, Greene, New York-based The Raymond Corp. At trial, the U.S. District Court in East St. Louis, Illinois, granted Raymond’s motion to rule plaintiff expert John Meyer’s testimony inadmissible.

Mr. Meyer had argued that Raymond could have made a number of changes to its design that would have prevented the accident.

A jury found the forklift was not defectively designed and returned a verdict in Raymond’s favor.

Ms. Anderson’s attorneys argued on appeal that the exclusion of Mr. Meyer’s opinion was erroneous and “substantially prejudicial to her case.” A three-judge appeals court panel unanimously agreed.

“The erroneous exclusion of evidence warrants a new trial only if the error had a substantial and injurious effect or influence the jury’s decision,” the ruling said.

The district court had ruled the testimony did not pass the Daubert Test, the panel said, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1983 ruling in Daubert vs. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., which set guidelines for expert scientific testimony. “That is a conclusion – not analysis – to which we owe no deference,” the panel said.

“We conclude that Meyer’s opinion should have been permitted” considering his “full range of practical experience as well as academic or technical training,” it said, in citing an earlier ruling, and referring to Mr. Meyer’s extensive training and experience.

The panel reversed the district court’s denial of Ms. Anderson’s motion for a new case, vacated its judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Plaintiff attorney Michael Warshauer, of Warshauer Wood Ward Atkins LLC in Atlanta, said in a statement, “This is a very good opinion. It will give a deserving client another opportunity for justice.” Raymond’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.

This article was first published in Business Insurance.

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