Orthopedic Surgery Expert Witness Testimony on Medical Causation Admitted

Orthopedic Surgery Expert Witness Testimony on Medical Causation Admitted

James Maples, the Plaintiff, filed a lawsuit against Union Pacific Railroad Company, Inc., the Defendant, under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (“FELA”), alleging on-the-job injuries stemming from when a wheel broke and detached from the utility vehicle he operated. Union Pacific acknowledged responsibility for the wheel detaching from the utility vehicle but disputed that it caused any harm to Maples. Maples sought partial summary judgment on Union Pacific’s affirmative defenses, encompassing issues such as mitigation, apportionment of fault, failure to join a party, pendency of another related action, accord and satisfaction, arbitration and award, discharge in bankruptcy, duress, estoppel, failure of consideration, fraud, illegality, injury by fellow servant, laches, license, payment, release, res judicata, statute of frauds, statute of limitations, and waiver. Additionally, Maples aimed to exclude expert testimony from Union Pacific’s medical expert, Earl Peeples, and biomechanical expert, Jeffrey Broker.

Orthopedic Surgery Expert Witness

Dr. Raymond Earl Peeples, MD, graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. Following his medical education, he completed a Straight Surgical Internship at Baptist Memorial Hospital. Subsequently, he pursued Orthopaedic Surgery Residency at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Further enhancing his expertise, Peeples underwent a Hand Surgery and Microsurgery Fellowship at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center’s Office of Graduate Medical Education. Currently, Raymond Peeples works at Peeples Medical Legal Consulting. His extensive medical education, residency, and fellowship experiences contribute to his qualifications as a medical expert in the field.

Biomechanics Expert Witness

Dr. Jeffrey Palmer Broker, Ph.D., received his Ph.D. in Biomechanics and Motor Control from the University of California, Los Angeles. He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from California Polytechnic State University. Broker specializes in Biomechanics of Injury, and Accident Causation. His expertise extends to areas like Cycling (control and falls, dynamic simulations, equipment failures) and Sports and Recreation Equipment. Broker has been the owner of Echelon Biomechanics. He also serves as an Associate Professor in Biomechanics at the University of Colorado.

Discussion by the Court

Summary judgment was denied concerning the mitigation and apportionment affirmative defenses. However, for the remaining affirmative defenses, summary judgment was granted, as Union Pacific explicitly stated its intention not to present them. Union Pacific retains the option to seek reconsideration if Maples introduces evidence that opens the door for these defenses.

Summary judgment was denied on the mitigation affirmative defense as it was determined that the question of whether Maples acted reasonably to mitigate his damages should be decided by a jury. This decision was based on the recognition that the failure to mitigate the loss of earnings is a valid affirmative defense in FELA cases. A genuine dispute existed regarding Maples’ capability to perform work beyond what he had undertaken since the accident. It was emphasized that the FELA does not exempt claimants from the obligation to seek suitable employment, and FELA Defendants have the right to a jury instruction on mitigation when the record supports it. In this case, the record indicated that Maples might not have adequately sought other jobs, potentially failing to mitigate damages.

Summary judgment was denied on the apportionment affirmative defense due to the existence of a genuine factual dispute regarding whether Maples’s back injuries pre-existed from the date of the accident. It was emphasized that FELA Defendants bear liability solely for damages resulting from their negligence. Therefore, the apportionment affirmative defense was deemed appropriate in this context.

Maples’s motion to exclude Peeples from offering expert testimony on secondary gain or malingering, Maples’s credibility, and Matthew Gornet‘s deposition testimony was denied as moot. It is worth noting that Plaintiff raised arguments against Peeples’ suggestions of Dr. Gornet doing something improper, illegal or unethical in this case.

This decision arose as Union Pacific affirmed its lack of intention to elicit trial testimony from Peeples on these specific issues. However, Maples retained the option to seek reconsideration if Union Pacific alters its course and expresses an intent to present testimony on these matters.

The Court acknowledged that Peeples, a medical doctor specializing in orthopedic surgery, was deemed qualified to testify about medical causation. This recognition was supported by the precedent set in Harris v. Ladd, No. 5:09CV00179 JLH (E.D. Ark. Jan. 25, 2012), where it was established that a Defendant’s medical expert has the right to testify that the physical injuries for which the Plaintiff seeks compensation were not caused by the accident.

The motion to prevent Peeples from expressing opinions on the reasonableness of the work restrictions prescribed by Maples’s doctor was denied based on Peeples’ qualification to provide such testimony. The Court noted that disagreements with a treating physician’s course of treatment could be addressed during cross-examination.

Peeples was permitted to testify about Gornet’s charges and liens, as the Court recognized that his specialized knowledge could assist a jury in making credibility determinations regarding these issues.

Maples’s motion to exclude Broker’s expert testimony was denied, as the Court found that Broker’s opinion was not “so fundamentally unsupported that it can offer no assistance to the jury.” This determination stemmed from Broker’s qualifications as a Ph.D. specializing in the biomechanics of injuries and accident causation. The Court deemed Broker’s testimony admissible, particularly his assertion that biomechanically, Maples’s low back injury was inconsistent with the forces exerted during his accident.


The Court granted in part and denied in part Maples’ motion for partial summary judgment. The Court also denied Maples’ motions to exclude the testimony of Union Pacific’s experts Earl Peeples and Jeffrey Broker.

The Court has not arrived on an outcome for this case since the remaining issues involved in this case still await resolution.

Key Takeaways

In the legal proceedings between Maples and Union Pacific under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), expert testimony played a crucial role. The Court allowed testimony from Earl Peeples, a medical doctor specializing in orthopedic surgery, on matters related to medical causation. Additionally, the Court permitted Peeples to testify about Gornet’s charges and liens, acknowledging Peeples’ specialized knowledge as beneficial for the jury in assessing credibility on these issues.

Similarly, the Court allowed Jeffrey Broker, a Ph.D. specializing in biomechanics, to provide expert testimony. Despite Maples’ attempt to exclude Broker’s testimony, the Court found that Broker’s opinion was not fundamentally unsupported and could offer assistance to the jury. The Court highlighted Broker’s qualifications in biomechanics of injuries and accident causation, particularly noting his assertion that Maples’s low back injury was biomechanically inconsistent with the forces exerted during the accident. In both instances, the Court’s decisions reflected a careful consideration of the experts’ qualifications and the relevance of their testimony to the case.

Case Details

Case CaptionMaples v. Union Pac. R.R. Co.
Docket Number4:22cv965
CourtUnited States District Court, Arkansas Eastern
Citation2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17790
Order DateFebruary 01, 2024


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