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March 20, 2007

Expert's Untested Opinon Excluded in Unintended Acceleration Case

In Federico v. Ford Motor Co., 854 N.E.2d 448 (Mass. App. Ct. 2006), plaintiff, as administratrix of her husband's estate, claimed that his death was caused when a Mercury Sable, manufactured by Ford Motor Co., accelerated to high speed and struck the decedent.  In support of the design defect claim, the plaintiff proffered the testimony of Samuel J. Sero, an electronics expert, who was prepared to testify that the vehicle's cruise control was subject to "transient electronic signals or electromagnetic interference" that would cause the vehicle to accelerate unbidden by the driver.  The Appeals Court of Massachesetts upheld the trial judge's exclusion of Sero's opinion as scientifically unreliable under Commonwealth v. Lanigan, Massachusett's version of the Daubert rule.  The trial judge had concluded that Sero's theories (1) had not been accepted by the relevant scientific community and that indeed other studies had rejected Sero's conclusions, (2) had not been successfully tested and that the expert himself admitted that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to do so, and (3) had not been published or subjected to peer review.  The trial court also referred to the rejection in an earlier case in federal district court in New York of similar testimony by Sero. 

JDP

March 20, 2007 | Permalink

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