ILNews

$2.9M verdict in mill accident case upheld

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the admittance of an expert’s opinion as to causation of an accident at a northern Indiana steel rolling mill, finding the federal court properly denied a company’s Daubert motion to bar that testimony.

Leonard Lapsley was severely injured in an accident at the mill when industrial grease was propelled from the roll end with enough energy to pass through his body like a bullet. He is disabled as a result of the accident.

At trial, Dr. Gary Hutter testified as a plaintiff expert witness that an internal spring in the industrial product designed and made by Xtek was the culprit mechanism behind the accident and an alternative design of a thrust plate in the equipment would have prevented the accident being as severe. Xtex filed a Daubert motion for the trial court to scrutinize Hutter’s testimony to determine whether it’s reliable enough to present to the jury. Xtek argued that Hutter’s proposed testimony lacked scientific basis.

The District Court disagreed, pointing to the “commonly known methodologies and physics calculations” that Hutter used in reaching his conclusions. The court also found that the conclusions were relevant, ruling that Xtek’s disagreement with Hutter’s theory on causation could not be the sole reason for excluding it.

The court found Hutter’s testimony about the alternative thrust plate design raised a genuine issue of fact with regard to the Lapsley’s design-defect claim. It denied summary judgment on his failure-to-warn claim. The jury found Xtek was 65 percent at fault for the accident and awarded $2.97 million. The court also denied Xtek’s Rule 50(b) motion for judgment as a matter of law that sought reconsideration of the court’s refusal to exclude Hutter’s testimony.

With regard to the Rule 50(b) denial, Xtek didn’t argue that the evidence as actually presented was insufficient to support the jury verdict, but that it would have been insufficient without Hutter’s testimony. Xtek argued again that Dr. Hutter’s expert opinions regarding causation, alternate design, and reasonable care or foreseeability lacked scientific basis and should have been excluded under Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert.

Xtek also claimed that since a design-defect claim also incorporates an element of foreseeability under Indiana law, the lack of evidence fatal to the failure-to-warn claim should have doomed the
design-defect claim as well.

The 7th Circuit rejected all of Xtek’s arguments in a 32-page opinion.

“The uniqueness of an accident can weigh against jury findings of foreseeability and lack of reasonable care in design, but that is a matter for the jury to decide,” Judge David Hamilton wrote. “The jury here accepted Dr. Hutter’s uncontradicted expert opinion that a reasonable designer would have considered the danger of the powerful spring being bound up unexpectedly and releasing its energy so as to act like a ram on the grease in the spindle assembly. Rule 702 provides a test of reliability, not of ultimate merit. District courts acting as gatekeepers of scientific, technical, or specialized knowledge evidence retain significant discretion under the flexible Daubert inquiry. The district court here did not misapply Daubert, and Xtek has identified no compelling reason to disturb the court’s exercise of its discretion.”

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

ADVERTISEMENT