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Demar v. D.L. Peterson Trust

October 13, 2006

AMY DEMAR, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF PAUL J. SIRIANNI AND ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF GLORIA M. SIRIANNI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
D.L. PETERSON TRUST, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. McAVOY Senior United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

Plaintiff commenced the instant action against the D.L. Peterson Trust asserting claims of negligence and seeking to recover damages for personal injury to Plaintiff Amy Demar and for the wrongful death of Paul and Gloria Sirianni. Currently before the Court are cross-motions seeking to preclude certain expert testimony. Defendant moves to preclude:

(1) Dr. Abraham Phillip from offering an opinion on the issue of the effect of seatbelt use; and (2) Plaintiffs' rebuttal experts (Robert Burns and David Gushue) from testifying at all. Plaintiff moves to preclude Defendant's seatbelt expert, Thomas Lacek, and to dismiss the seatbelt defense.

I. FACTS

Defendant D.L. Peterson Trust (the "Trust") owned a certain Ford Explorer motor vehicle. The Trust leased the vehicle to GlaxoSmithKline, the employer of Plaintiff Amy DeMar. On July 30, 2004, Plaintiff's spouse, Randy DeMar, was operating the vehicle eastbound on the New York State Thruway in the Town of Montezuma, County of Cayuga, State of New York. Randy DeMar was seated in the driver's seat. Amy DeMar was seated in the passenger's seat. Both driver and front seat passenger were wearing seat belts. Paul and Gloria Sirianni were seated in the back seat of the vehicle. Neither of them were wearing a seat belt.

At approximately 1:00 p.m., the vehicle left the road, traveled over the rumble strips on the side of the road, entered the median, and then rolled over several times before coming to rest upside down. Paul and Gloria Sirianni were ejected from the vehicle. Paul Sirianni never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Plaintiff then commenced the instant action on behalf of herself and as administratrix of the estates of Paul Sirianni and Gloria Sirianni.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The admissibility of expert testimony is governed by Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. That Rule provides as follows:

If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.

Fed. R. Evid. 702.

In reviewing the admissibility of expert testimony, "the district court has a 'gatekeeping' function under Rule 702 - it is charged with 'the task of ensuring that an expert's testimony both rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand.'"

Amorgianos v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp., 303 F.3d 256, 265 (2d Cir. 2002) (quoting Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 ...


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