The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, United States District Judge.
On the date of the accident, March 9, 1998, Mr. Fedor was driving from
Philadelphia to Boston. Approximately four hours into the trip, Mr. Fedor
pulled off the interstate in Connecticut to inspect the truck. The design
of the truck consists of three steps which the driver shall use to enter
and exit the truck: (1) the cabin step, (2) the top ladder step, and (3)
the bottom ladder step. The facts regarding Mr. Fedor's accident are
disputed. According to plaintiff, while holding the door handle, he
slipped off the top ladder step as he was attempting to step from the top
step to the bottom ladder step and fell to the ground landing on both
feet. See Fedor Dep., 9/27/99, at 7-9. Defendants, relying on somewhat
ambiguous language from a later deposition of Mr. Fedor, argue that he
was stepping from the cabin step to the top ladder step and was not using
the door handle when he slipped.*fn2 Plaintiff claims that he slipped on
fuel which had been spilled on the top step during the fueling of the
truck. It is plaintiff's theory that the design of the truck's step
system and the location of the fuel tank was defective and resulted in
his fall which caused his injuries.
The parties conducted discovery and exchanged expert reports. Plaintiff
now seeks to introduce the testimony of Dr. Stephen Wilcox and Mr. Glenn
Frederick. Dr. Wilcox proposes to testify as to the defective design of
the truck step system and the location of the fuel tank. The testimony of
Mr. Frederick, challenged here, addresses the location of the fuel tank
only. Presently before the court are two motions in limine filed by the
defendants seeking to exclude, pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 702,
the testimony of Dr. Wilcox's in its entirety and that of Mr. Frederick
as it relates to the location of the truck's fuel port near the truck's
steps. A hearing on the motions was held on January 24, 2002, and,
thereafter, the parties submitted supplemental briefing on the issues of
Dr. Wilcox's qualifications and methodology.
I. Defendants' Motion in Limine to Preclude the Testimony of
Dr. Stephen Wilcox as to Design Defects in the Truck's Step Ladder
Defendants seek to exclude the entirety of Dr. Wilcox's testimony
arguing that Dr. Wilcox shall not testify by way of opinion for the
following reasons: one, Dr. Wilcox is not qualified to offer the opinions
and, two, the opinions are not based on any discernable methodology.*fn3
Dr. Wilcox submitted two reports containing six opinions on design
defects in the step system and fuel tank on the truck operated by Mr.
Fedor at the time of his accident. The opinions are as follows:
1. Surface friction. Dr. Wilcox's report states: "When I examined the
step, the `upper punches,' which were the only real mechanism for
providing surface friction, were considerably worn, thus eroding their
ability to keep the foot from sliding." At his deposition, Dr. Wilcox
testified regarding this opinion as follows:
Q. Is it your opinion that the, quote, upper punches,
closed quote, are the only real mechanism providing
Q. What is the basis of that opinion?
A. My understanding of the geometry of the step.
Q. Did you attempt to measure surface friction?
Q. Did you undertake any investigation of truck steps
to determine surface friction?
Wilcox Dep., 10/11/01, at 110.
Q. Would the condition, material and design of the
shoes worn by Mr. Fedor have an effect on whether
the boot would slide or not?
Q. What is the basis for the opinion?
A. Well, there may be other things. That's all that
comes to mind at the moment.
Q. What law of physics are you talking about?
A. Well, its just basic physics. If we're talking about
slipperiness, it's a relationship between two surfaces.
2. Radius of the step edge: "The fact that the edge was rounded further
decreased the `purchase' offered by the step."*fn4 When asked about this
opinion during his deposition, Dr. Wilcox testified:
A. About half an inch, something like that, I
Q. If the step had a sharp edge, would Mr. Fedor have
A. I don't believe he would have, no.
Q. And what is the basis for ...