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Biomechanical Engineer’s Testimony Precluded at Trial under Frye Hearing Standard

August 12, 2016

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In accordance with the <em>Frye</em> hearing standard, Courts will go a long way in admitting expert testimony from a well-recognized scientific principle or discovery. However, the testimony must be sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs.
In <em><a href="http://courts.state.ny.us/Reporter/3dseries/2016/2016_50987.htm">Singh v. Siddique</a>, </em>plaintiff was a driver in a car hit in the rear by another car inside Kennedy Airport.  As a result of the collision, plaintiff sustained various injuries.
On the issue of damages, defendant sought to introduce the expert testimony of Dr. Kevin Tossi, a biomechanical engineer, to opine that the forces involved in the accident could not have caused plaintiff’s injuries. In support of this opinion, Dr. Tossi relied upon the average weight and age of the occupants for purposes of determining the weight of each vehicle/measuring velocity.  Plaintiff moved in <em>limine</em> to preclude Dr. Tossi’s testimony on the grounds the opinion was unreliable since the methods employed by Dr. Tossi did not adhere to accepted standards of reliability within the field of biomechanical engineering.
The Supreme Court, Kings County granted plaintiff’s motion finding Dr. Toosi’s methods did not adhere to the accepted standards of reliability since he did not directly measure the mass of the occupants in the vehicles. Further, the Supreme Court found Dr. Toosi was not sufficiently competent in his claimed field of expertise since he did not present one peer-reviewed item of scientific literature to validate the methods he used.
The take-away from this case is prior to presenting an expert testimony at trial, a lawyer should ensure the expert is well versed in the field he is called to testify and the methods he employs are the accepted methods in his industry. Otherwise, at the time of trial, this expert’s testimony may be precluded based on the <em>Frye </em>hearing standards.
Thanks to Caroline Freilich for her contribution to this post.
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