Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Koenig v. Beekmans

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division

December 5, 2017




         Before the Court is the Motion to Exclude the Testimony of Billy S. Cox, Jr., filed by Plaintiff Benjamin Koenig [#89]. This case was assigned to the undersigned for disposition of all pre-trial matters, pursuant to Rules CV-72 and 1(c) of Appendix C of the Local Rules of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas [#115]. The Court has diversity jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, and the undersigned has authority to enter this order pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). See, e.g., Target Strike, Inc. v. Marston & Marston, Inc., No. SA-10-cv-0188-OLG-NN, 2011 WL 676185, at *1 (W.D. Tex. Feb. 16, 2011) (noting magistrate judge's § 636(b) authority to rule on motions to exclude expert testimony, which are non-dispositive). Having considered Plaintiff Koenig's Motion [#89], Defendant Anthony Beekmans' Response [#101], the relevant law, and the pleadings, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART the Motion to Exclude the Testimony of Billy S. Cox, Jr., filed by Plaintiff Benjamin Koenig [#89]. The Court finds that Cox is sufficiently qualified to testify as an expert on the topic of accident reconstruction in this case but that his testimony should be limited as discussed herein.

         I. Background

         This personal injury lawsuit arises from an October 2, 2013 head-on car accident involving Koenig and Beekmans. Koenig asserts claims for negligence and negligence per se, and seeks damages from Beekmans in excess of $1 million. It is undisputed that, as a result of the accident, Koenig sustained (and was treated for) a fractured sternum as well as a compression-type fracture of the L1 disc in his spine. (See [#106-1]). The parties, however, dispute whether the collision also caused Koenig to suffer a traumatic brain injury and a herniated L5-S1 disc. The parties also dispute who, Koenig or Beekmans, caused the accident, including whether one of them was driving on the wrong side of the road.

         Defendant Beekmans designated accident reconstructionist Billy S. Cox to offer an expert opinion regarding the accident's causes and the sequence of events that led up to it. (See [#89-1]). Cox concludes that the accident occurred because Koenig was driving his vehicle eastbound in the westbound lane lawfully occupied by Beekmans' vehicle. According to Cox, Beekmans was traveling at or below the posted speed limit (45 mph) when he noticed Koenig's vehicle approaching his lane of travel. Cox concludes that once Beekmans noticed Koenig's vehicle approaching his lane, Beekmans reacted by steering his vehicle to his left and applying his brakes, which reduced Beekmans' speed to 2 to 5 mph. According to Cox, Koenig was traveling between 40 to 50 mph and also changed lanes to the impact point but did not apply his brakes before the collision. Cox concludes that Beekmans' decisions to steer to his left to the point of impact and apply his brakes to try to avoid the collision were appropriate. He also concludes that had Koenig properly applied his brakes, the parties could have avoided the accident altogether. (Id. at 12).

         Koenig's motion attacks Cox's qualifications to testify as an expert as well as the reliability and helpfulness of his opinions and testimony.

         II. Legal Standards

         Koenig's challenges to the admissibility of Cox's expert testimony are governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 702, along with Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993), and its progeny. See Black v. Food Lion, Inc., 171 F.3d 308, 310, 314 (5th Cir.1999); Wells v. SmithKline Beecham Corp., No. A-06-CA-126-LY, 2009 WL 564303, at *7 (W.D. Tex. Feb. 18, 2009). Rule 702 provides that a witness “‘qualified as an expert . . . may testify . . . in the form of an opinion . . . 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.'” Guy v. Crown Equip. Corp., 394 F.3d 320, 325 (5th Cir. 2004) (quoting Fed.R.Evid. 702).

         Daubert charges trial courts to act as evidentiary “gate-keepers” to ensure that proffered expert testimony is, among other things, sufficiently reliable. Daubert, 509 U.S. at 589, 592-93; see Watk ins v. Telsmith, Inc., 121 F.3d 984, 989 (5th Cir. 1997). Courts enjoy wide discretion in deciding precisely how to make such a reliability determination in a given case. Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 142 (1999). The reliability inquiry focuses “on [experts'] principles and methodology, not on the conclusions that [experts] generate.” Daubert, 509 U.S. at 594. The proponent of expert testimony is not required to show that the testimony is correct, but rather show-by a preponderance of the evidence-that the testimony is sufficiently reliable. Moore v. Ashland Chem. Inc., 151 F.3d 269, 276 (5th Cir. 1998). Whether an expert is “basing testimony upon professional studies or personal experience, ” a court must ensure the expert “employs in the courtroom the same level of intellectual rigor that characterizes the practice of an expert in the relevant field.” Kumho Tire Co., 526 U.S. at 152.

         At the same time, “the trial court's role as gatekeeper is not intended to serve as a replacement for the adversary system.” United States v. 14.38 Acres of Land, 80 F.3d 1074, 1078 (5th Cir. 1996). “Vigorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence, and careful instruction on burden of proof are the traditional and appropriate means of attacking shaky but admissible evidence.” Daubert, 509 U.S. at 596. In general, “questions relating to the bases and sources of an expert's opinion affect the weight to be assigned that opinion rather than its admissibility and should be left for the jury's consideration.” 14.38 Acres of Land, 80 F.3d at 1077; see also Viterbo v. Dow Chemical Co., 826 F.2d 420, 422 (5th Cir. 1987).

         III. Analysis

         Cox is qualified to provide an accident reconstruction analysis in this case, and his testimony regarding the vehicles' momentum prior to impact, as well as the parties' perception times and the reasonableness of each party's accident-avoidance maneuvers are sufficiently reliable and helpful to survive the motion to exclude. But Cox cannot testify regarding which lane either party was occupying as the vehicles approached one another or whether either party was traveling at the posted speed limit at that same time because his conclusions on those points are unreliable.

         Qualifications. Cox's qualifications satisfy Rule 702 and Daubert, which require that a “proffered witness is qualified to testify [as an expert] by virtue of his ‘knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education.'” Wilson v. Woods, 163 F.3d 935, 937 (5th Cir. 1999) (quoting Fed.R.Evid. 702). “Rule 702 does not mandate that the expert be highly qualified in order to testify about a given issue, and the issue of qualification has been described as presenting a ‘low threshold' for the proponent to clear.” DiSalvatore v. Foretravel, Inc., No. 9:14-CV-00150, 2016 WL 7742824, at *10 (E.D. Tex. Jul. 20, 2016); see also Guzman v. Mem'l Hermann Hosp. Sys., No. CIV.A. H-07-3973, 2008 WL 5273713, at *15 (S.D. Tex. Dec. 17, 2008). As long as an “expert meets liberal minimum qualifications, then the level of the expert's expertise goes to credibility and weight, not admissibility.” Kannankeril v. Terminix Int'l, 128 F.3d 802, 809 (3d Cir. 1997).

         Cox's experience, training, and education with accident reconstruction qualify him to provide an expert opinion in this case. Cox's resume and deposition testimony reflect over 25 years of experience as a full-time forensic accident reconstructionist, and involvement in thousands of accident reconstruction cases. (See [#89-3]; Cox Dep. 8:1-3; 119:23-123:11). Cox is also accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Traffic Accident Reconstruction, the only accreditation available for accident reconstructionists, and has taken the necessary continuing education courses to keep his accreditation current for the ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.