Our company is a family owned business and we supply valve stems to motor vehicle rim manufactures. We are a named party in a class action law suit against the motor vehicle manufactures, the international tire manufacturer and the rim manufacturers that utilized our valve stems.
Allegedly, the defective tires were attached to certain models of passenger cars. The Plaintiffs aver that the tires “blew out” at maintained speeds of 70 MPH for more than fifteen minutes when the ambient temperature exceeded 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Expert Witnesses and Adversarial Proceedings
Can our company use expert witnesses to defend against legal claims made against us? Yes.
Can we use engineers, lay people and others as expert testimony to prove that the class action suit against our company is without merit? It depends, in the federal system, an expert witness’ testimony is controlled by the federal rules of evidence.
Some Relevant Federal Rules of Evidence:
Rule 701. Opinion Testimony by Lay Witnesses
If a witness is not testifying as an expert, testimony in the form of an opinion is limited to one that is:
- rationally based on the witness’s perception;
- helpful to clearly understanding the witness’s testimony or to determining a fact in issue; and
- not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge within the scope of Rule 702.
Rule 702. Testimony by Expert Witnesses
A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
- the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
- the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
- the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
- the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.
Rule 703. Bases of an Expert
An expert may base an opinion on facts or data in the case that the expert has been made aware of or personally observed.
Can our Legal Team use the following as Expert Witnesses?
- The Director of our engineering department who has twenty years experience of overseeing quality control in the manufacture of our valve stems to prove that our valve stems were not defective. Yes – would qualify as an expert.
- The Director of our engineering department who has twenty years of experience of overseeing quality control in the manufacture of our valve stems to prove that the tires were not defective. No – would not qualify as an expert.
- Our vice president of sales to prove that 75% of the rims associated with the alleged defective tires did not utilize our valve stems. Yes – would qualify as an expert, and if challenged should be allowed to give a lay opinion on the issue.
- The lead investigator of an insurance company’s automobile accident reconstruction team to prove that the tires were not defective. Yes – would qualify as an expert.
- An independent one-man shop seller of new tires with thirty years of experience of removing worn passenger car tires and installing new replacement tires to prove that the tires were not defective. Via news reports, the tire seller observed that seals for the alleged “blow out” tires did not contact their rims in accordance with industry protocol – outward and inward sides of tires were reversed when installed on their rims. Yes – would qualify as an expert.
- The above one-man shop seller observes that many “beach buggy” owners asked him how to reverse the tires on their cars. The witness testifies that social media was instructing “beach buggy” owners to reverse the inward and outward sides of the tires for a better “beach experience.” The witness opines that the reversed tires caused the tires to “blow out.” No – would not qualify as an expert to give opinion on the cause of the blow outs. However, the witness could testify as a layman regarding his interaction with “beach buggy” owners and social media.
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