Crum v. Corbin, No. S19C-03-011 CAK, 2022 WL 667339 (Del. Super. Ct. Mar. 7, 2022)

Biomechanical engineer permitted to testify as to how an accident occurred, but not with respect to the plaintiff’s ability to withstand physical forces.

The plaintiff filed a motion to exclude the defendant’s biomechanical engineer expert form testifying at trial. The expert, Andrew Rentschler, Ph.D., opined both as to how an automobile collision occurred and the plaintiff’s ability to withstand physical forces. This case stemmed from a side-swipe collision, and Dr. Rentschler “concluded the accident was far less dramatic than as described by Plaintiff.” As the court noted, “Plaintiff testified the vehicles were locked together for a period and Defendants’ truck dragged Plaintiff’s vehicle for a substantial distance. Dr. Rentschler’s description entails more of a quick contact between the vehicles.” 

The court pointed out that this plaintiff “is a unique individual with a unique medical history. Her history of medical problems similar to those for which she claims compensation for injury here are substantial and complicated. As an aside, the medical issues are those which have been litigated routinely, primarily through testimony of medical experts. These issues which are unique to Plaintiff are the reason why I do not believe the testimony should be admitted.” 

At the Daubert hearing, the court questioned Dr. Rentschler about two areas: (1) how his work accounted for the “egg shell skull”; and (2) testimony from those who practice in the tort area have heard for years, typically from defense medical experts, that a herniated disc can be caused by a sneeze or very moderate activity. The court found the expert had no “real answer” for this particular plaintiff. Despite Dr. Rentschler’s “significant attempt to particularize his opinions” with review of her deposition transcript and medical records, “None of this significantly entered his decision making. Simply put, he had no way to account for the peculiarities of Plaintiff’s medical condition.” 

Ultimately, the court held his opinions in this area to be inadmissible as an “invasion into the medical area by one who has no medical expertise.” The court noted that the way to challenge the plaintiff’s injury claims in this case was through the parties’ medical experts.

Note: The court considered Ortiz v. Smith, 2020 WL 6278215 (Del. Super., Oct. 26, 2020) and Fuggett v. Aronowicz, C.A. No.: N11C-11-106 AML; 2017 WL 2799167 (Del. Super., June 27, 2017).


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