December 28, 2002: Howard v. Ford Motor Co.

Civil Action No. 5:00-CV-448-3 (M.D. Ga)

Applying Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993) and Federal Rule of Evidence 702, the court excluded Ford's statistical expert witness from offering any testimony at trial. Ford's expert had generated statistics purporting to illustrate the safety of the overly aggressive Ford airbag that deployed and severely injured the plaintiff in a fender bender wreck. The plaintiff, who was properly seated and belted in the front passenger seat of her Ford F-150 at the time of the wreck, suffered a collection of catastrophic brain stem and other brain injuries that left her in a "locked in" state as a result of being hit by the overpowered airbag. In this 11 page order, the court held that Ford's statistics were both unreliable and irrelevant. Ford's statistical expert failed to apply any of the published error rates necessary to utilize the databases upon which he relied. That alone rendered an entire category of his statistics unreliable, according to the court. Moreover, once the court properly applied the error rates Ford's expert ignored, the statistics became meaningless because the error rates subsumed the statistical comparisons Ford's expert attempted to make. The underlying sample sizes were also too small to allow for any meaningful statistical analysis. For all of these and other reasons, the court held that Ford's statistics were unreliable and, therefore, inadmissible. The court also determined that the statistics were irrelevant because they were based upon incidents that did not even involve the deployment of an airbag, which was the core event in the Howard case. In fact, upon close examination, Ford's statistical pool turned out to consist primarily of dissimilar, cherry-picked incidents bearing no resemblance to the Howard wreck. The statistical pool was so inapplicable to the Howard case that the Howard wreck did not even qualify for inclusion. As a result, the court excluded Ford's statistical expert from offering any testimony or statistics at trial.

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