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Gilreath v. CSX Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

February 21, 2018

DARREN GILREATH, Plaintiff,
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          KAREN K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on four motions in limine filed by Defendant CSX Transportation, Inc. (“CSXT”). (DE 99, 101, 105, 108). Plaintiff Darren Gilreath has filed responses (DE 120, 121, 123, 126) and this matter is now ripe for consideration.

         I. Background

         The relevant factual background of this case is set out more fully in the Court's opinion addressing the Parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. (DE 128). In short, Darren Gilreath was working as a switchman on a remote control locomotive at a CSXT railyard. He claims that, while tightening a hand brake using a brake stick, the tension in the brake unexpectedly and momentarily released before coming to a sudden stop. This caused him to feel a pop and jolt in his shoulder and pain in his left arm. Gilreath alleges that the incident caused his rotator cuff and labral tears, which have placed restrictions on his use of his left shoulder and upper arm. The Court has granted summary judgment for the Defendant on Plaintiff's Federal Employer's Liability Act (“FELA”), 45 U.S.C. § 51, et seq, negligence claim and Locomotive Inspection Act (“LIA”), 49 U.S.C. §§ 20701-20703, per se negligence claim. The only remaining cause of action before the Court is Plaintiff's claim that the hand brake was inefficient in violation of the Safety Appliances Act (“SAA”), 49 U.S.C. §§ 20301-20306, constituting negligence per se under FELA.

         II. Analysis

         A. Defendant's motion to exclude testimony of Plaintiff's liability expert

         Plaintiff has retained John David Engle Jr. as a liability expert. Engle has been employed by a Class 1 railroad, Norfolk Southern Railway Company, in various roles, including Superintendent of Air Brakes. Engle has provided a Preliminary Report (DE 74-5) and has been deposed by the Defendant (DE 74-4). Engle's opinion is that the hand brake was defective at the time of the incident and therefore inefficient.[1] (Engle's Rep. DE 74-5, at 11) (“The defective hand brake . . . was in violation of the Safety Appliance Act . . . at the time of the incident because it was not efficient.”). He believes that the hand brake was defective because “[t]here was something in the hand brake, and the hand brake associated rigging that caused the brake to start tensioning up, and then releasing or becoming free, and then stopping again.” (Engle's Dep. DE 74-4, at 44). The evidence that Engle relies on in support of opinion is “[t]he description by Mr. Gilreath and the fact that there are AAR Rules, and FRA Rules about preventing binding or fouling in the braking system . . . .” Id.

         Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence governs the admissibility of expert testimony.

         It provides:

         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:

(a) 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;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case. Fed.R.Evid. 702. The rule reflects the Supreme Court's decisions in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), which charged judges with the responsibility to act as gatekeepers, excluding unreliable expert testimony. This gatekeeping role applies equally to scientific and technical expert testimony. Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999). The language of Rule 702 creates three requirements for expert testimony to be admissible. See In re Scrap Metal Antitrust Litig., 527 F.3d 517, 528 (6th Cir. 2008). First, the expert must be “qualified by knowledge, skill, experience, training or education.” Id. at 529. Second, the expert's testimony must “assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.” Id. And, third, the testimony must be reliable. Id. Testimony is reliable if it is “based on sufficient factors or data . . . is the product of reliable principles and methods; and the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.” Fed.R.Evid. 702(b)-(d). Additionally, Daubert provided factors for courts to consider in evaluating reliability, which include “testing, peer review, publication, error rates, the existence and maintenance of standards controlling the technique's operation, and general acceptance in the relevant scientific community.” United States v. Langan, 263 F.3d 613, 621 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 593-94). Those factors, however, are non-exclusive and apply only “only where they are reasonable measures of the reliability of expert testimony.” In re Scrap Metal, 527 F.3d at 529 (quoting Gross v. Comm'r, 272 F.3d 333, 339 (6th Cir. 2001)).

         The Defendant does not dispute that Engle is qualified, based on his experience, to provide an opinion on the efficiency of hand brakes. Accordingly, the two issues before the Court are whether Engle's opinion would assist the trier of fact and if his testimony is reliable.

         1. Engle's ...


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