were three expert witnesses whose testimony satisfies plaintiff's burden of proof as to this element: Joseph E. Molle, Miles Morgan, and Alfred E. Baccini.
Joseph E. Molle is the roller on the Fairless bar mill, which is the highest non-management position. He had worked for U.S. Steel for 37 years and worked in the bar mill for the 20 years since it was first installed. During those 20 years he held practically every job in the mill. George was a member of Molle's crew when he had his accident, but Molle was not present at that time. He testified that the mill would be a lot safer if the pulpit were placed on the drive side of the mill rather than the working side, or that there could be two pulpits: one on each side of the mill.
As stated, Molle was not testifying as a factual witness, on this point, but as an expert witness. Although admittedly not an engineer or a man with other academic credentials, Molle was an experienced workman in the bar mill. As such, he is qualified to render expert testimony in this case. Globe Indemnity Co. v. Highland Tank and Mfg. Co., 345 F. Supp. 1290 (E.D.Pa. 1972), per Newcomer, J.; Abbott v. Steel City Piping Co., 437 Pa. 412, 420-21, 263 A.2d 881 (1970). Therefore, his expert testimony, based on his experience in the mill, supplied the alternate design of the mill in which cobblescreens could be constructed without blocking the view from the pulpit.
Miles Morgan is the Chairman of the Board of the Morgan Construction Co. He retired from the position of First Vice-President in 1965. He was Vice-President and then First Vice-President during the time of the design and installation of this mill. He testified concerning the design and feasibility of cobblescreens, but not concerning the alternate design of putting the pulpit, or a second pulpit, on the other wall. However, he submitted an alternate design of his own: a cobblescreen made of structural steel members filled in with heavy wire mesh welded to those members. Such a cobblescreen could protect workers and not impair visibility (N.T. p. 3/84).
Alfred E. Baccini was the third witness to offer expert testimony on the subject of an alternate design. He is a safety engineer who graduated from Drexel University in 1936 with a major in machine design and mechanical engineering. He did post graduate work at Drexel University, Pennsylvania State University, and Princeton University. He is a registered professional engineer, and has been one since 1948 in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. His specialty has always been safety engineering, and he has taught a course in it at Drexel's evening college for over 15 years. He was also in charge of Drexel's Department of Special Studies, and was one of the 60 people to be honored at the convocation of the 60th anniversary of Drexel. His honor was for work done in safety engineering. He is a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers and the Veterans of Safety, and has consulted with numerous large companies. In particular, he was technical consultant to Atlantic Richfield where he designed machine guards and guards for hazardous conditions of various types.
Defendant attacks Baccini's testimony on two independent grounds: (1) that he was not qualified to testify as an expert, and (2) that his testimony did not establish an alternate design of the mill that would have been safer, feasible, and would have prevented plaintiff's accident.
The first ground alleged is that Baccini was not qualified to testify as an expert because he admittedly lacked expertise in the design and operation of bar mills. However, he was not admitted as an expert on designing and operating a steel mill, but as an expert on safety engineering. His qualifications amply prepared him as such.
The plaintiff claims that the defendant failed to design a bar mill safely. Thus there are two relevant fields of expertise: Design engineering and Safety engineering. The experts on design engineering, as stated, were Molle and Morgan. The expert on Safety engineering was Baccini. The fact that Baccini was not an expert on designing a bar mill is no more objectionable than the fact that Molle and Morgan were not experts in safety engineering. Each witness testified as an expert in his own field, and need not have expertise in other fields to do so.
The difference between safety engineering and expertise in designing steel mills is apparent not only from what we said about Baccini's qualifications, but also from his testimony itself. Accordingly, Baccini testified that he was qualified to give an opinion about the guarding of the Fairless bar mill because guarding involves safety engineering principles that apply equally to all machines. (N.T. 5-14). When asked whether he was an expert in the steel industry, Baccini answered that he considered himself "an expert in the field of safety engineering, which is an expert in all industries. Anything that deals with machines . . . ." (N.T. 5-71). In a heated exchange during defendant's interrogation regarding the different types of mills he may have seen before, Baccini remarked: "Anyway, a machine is a machine. It really doesn't matter." (N.T. 5-28). He testified that a safety engineer was capable of assessing whether the mill -- as well as any other machine -- was dangerous and, if so, how to render it safe.
He defined safety engineering as a discipline "concerned with the planning, development, improvement and evaluation of the safety components of integrated systems, which include men, material, equipment and environment, in order to achieve optimum safety effectiveness in the areas of both protection of people and protection of property." (N.T. 5-8-9). He testified that in the field of safety engineering there are established principles generally applicable within the field for protection of people or property expected to be exposed to a danger which cannot be engineered out of a machine. Under those circumstances safety engineering requires that guarding for the machine be provided to protect people. (N.T. 6-45-46).
An expert witness must show special knowledge of the very question upon which he is to express an opinion. In Re Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights, 449 Pa. 543, 551, 297 A.2d 117 (1972); Logsdon v. Baker, 366 F. Supp. 332, 336 (D.D.C. 1973). But the test applied to an expert's qualifications must not set the standard of qualification so high as to exclude the only kind of testimony ordinarily obtainable in such cases. Trowbridge v. Abrasive Co. of Philadelphia, 190 F.2d 825, 829 (3rd Cir. 1951). Here the question is one of safety engineering, and the only kind of testimony ordinarily available is that of a Safety Engineer. The test should not be set so high as to exclude such testimony. Baccini's lack of experience with steel mills only goes to the weight of his testimony, not its admissibility. Stempel v. Chrysler Corp., 495 F.2d 1247 (5th Cir. 1974).
In the recent case of Kuisis v. Baldwin Lima Hamilton Corporation, 457 Pa. 321, 319 A.2d 914, a decision of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania dated May 22, 1974, concerning the refusal of the lower court to permit a "safety engineer" to testify and express an opinion on matters of design, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court, and said:
"The standard of qualification is a liberal one; 'If a witness "has any reasonable pretension to specialized knowledge on the subject under investigation, he may testify, and the weight to be given his [testimony] is for the jury "'".
In that case, the Supreme Court refers, by footnote, to Brooks v. Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Co., 163 Cal. App.2d 410, 329 P. 2d 575 (1958), another case where a "safety engineer" was permitted to qualify and testify as to design safety as it related to the product. See also Moodie v. Westinghouse Electric Corp., 367 Pa. 493, 501, 80 A.2d 734 (1951).
The defendant cites the case of Ward v. Hobart Mfg. Co., 450 F.2d 1176 (5th Cir. 1971), in which the plaintiff's only expert witness was a highly qualified mechanical engineer who had no experience in the design of any type of machinery. The Court held that although this witness was competent to give expert testimony on the mechanical operation of the machine, he was not competent to testify on the issue of proper design of that machine. ( Id. at 1182-1183). Since there were no other expert witnesses to support plaintiff's contention of negligent design, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court with directions to enter judgment for the defendant. ( Id. at 1189). This is in accord with our present decision that Baccini was qualified to testify as a safety engineer, and that Molle and Morgan were qualified to testify as experts in the design and operation of a bar mill.
In the case of Globe Indemnity Company v. Highland Tank and Mfg. Co., 345 F. Supp. 1290 (E.D. Pa. 1972), also cited by defendant, Judge Newcomer also distinguished safety engineering from other types of engineering, in holding that an electrical engineer, who was not a safety engineer and had no contact with the molasses industry, was not permitted to testify with respect to "safety design" criteria of molasses holding tanks. Judge Newcomer's opinion further stated ( Id. at 1292):
"In making these decisions as to the qualifications of the plaintiff's experts, the Court was well aware that an expert witness may not have personally and cannot be expected to have personally experienced the factual situation in question about which he is to testify in order to qualify. The plaintiff does not have to get the best possible expert available on the subject . . ."