Biomechanics Expert Witness Allowed to Testify Despite not Visiting the Accident Scene

Biomechanics Expert Witness Allowed to Testify Despite not Visiting the Accident Scene

On August 28, 2019, Plaintiff Annie Perrone (“Plaintiff”) commenced this diversity action against Catamount Ski Resort, LLC (“Catamount Ski Resort”) and Catamount Development Corporation (“Catamount Development”; together with Catamount Ski Resort, “Catamount” or “Defendants”) alleging negligence and gross negligence in connection with injuries Plaintiff suffered while skiing at Catamount Ski Area. 

Plaintiff and Defendants each sought to preclude or limit the testimony of the opposing party’s experts as per Rule 702

Plaintiff sought to preclude Defendants’ biomechanical engineering expert, Irving Scher, Ph.D., “from testifying at trial regarding the causation of Plaintiff’s injuries.” Defendants sought to: (1) limit the testimony of Plaintiff’s testifying doctor, Thomas S. Eagan, M.D., and (2) preclude or limit the testimony of Plaintiff’s snow sports expert, Stanley Gale.

Biomechanics Expert Witness

Irving Scher is a Principal and Biomechanical Engineer at Guidance Engineering and Applied Research. He specializes in biomechanical engineering and accident reconstruction. Scher evaluates product safety and performance for recreational sports equipment, injury prevention products, and mechanical systems. Moreover, he investigates human injuries in accidents and product failures by using biomechanical engineering techniques that apply the principles of engineering to the human body.

Discover more cases with Irving Scher as an expert witness by ordering his comprehensive Expert Witness Profile report.

Orthopedic Surgery Expert Witness

Thomas S. Eagan is Board Certified in Orthopaedic Surgery; as such, he is a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. He has been president of the Fulton County Medical Society. Eagan received his medical degree from Albany Medical College, and continued his orthopaedic training at Dartmouth Medical College in New Hampshire. Also, he keeps in touch with advances in the field of orthopaedic surgery through his active participation in many respected medical societies, such as the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and the New York State Medical Society.

Get in-depth insights into Thomas Eagan’s expert witness experience by requesting his Expert Witness Profile today.

Ski Safety Expert Witness

Stanley Gale has 51 years of on-snow ski safety training and experience. He is a veteran ski patroller of almost 40 years. He has been a ski and snow safety expert witness for over 14 years. Gale routinely travels to ski resorts, tubing hills, sledding hills and snowmobile locations. As a result, he is well versed in the latest custom and practices for safety and mitigation of risk. Moreover, he is aware of the practical applications and day to day experiences of skiers and sledders. 

Gain a comprehensive understanding of Stanley Gale’s qualifications and casework history with his Expert Witness Profile report.

Discussion by the Court

A. Plaintiff’s Motion in Limine

1. Irving Scher, Ph.D.

Plaintiff contended that Scher is “not a medical doctor” and did not have “the educational background or training” to provide an opinion as to the medical causation of Plaintiff’s pelvic fracture sustained in the ski accident.

Defendants asserted that Scher will not testify as to Plaintiff’s medical injuries, and that he relied on the review of a board-certified radiologist to identify and confirm the injuries Plaintiff sustained to her pelvis. 

The Court found Scher qualified to testify regarding general causation, including the efficacy of whether commercially available padding on an object a Plaintiff collided with while downhill skiing could have prevented or reduced the severity of a Plaintiff’s injury.

Plaintiff further contended that because Scher never went to the accident site, he should not be able to testify that “a non-beginner skier should be able to stop or change direction to avoid open, obvious, visible, and marked snow making (or other obstacles) that are 135 feet away.” 

The fact that Scher did not personally visit the site of the accident did not, by itself, make his testimony unreliable.

B. Defendants’ Motion in Limine

1. Thomas S. Eagan, M.D.

Eagan’s Opinion is Based on the Review of Plaintiff’s Medical Records

Defendants contended that Plaintiff was treated by “a number of orthopedists following her injury,” however, Plaintiff is only calling  Eagan, a “regular courtroom witness,” whose office is over 150 miles from Plaintiff’s residence, to testify. Defendants relied on several cases for the proposition that “a non-treating physician, hired only to testify as an expert witness, may not state the history of an accident as related to him by the Plaintiff or testify as to Plaintiff’s medical complaints . . . nor can the expert summarize and read statements and findings contained in the reports and records of Plaintiff’s treating physicians, where reports and records were not in evidence and treating physicians did not testify at trial.”

In response, Plaintiff argued that Eagan’s opinion is not relying on hearsay, because he “conducted a physical examination of Plaintiff” and his opinion is based on the review of Plaintiff’s medical records.”

The Court found that Eagan may testify based on his examination of Plaintiff and the medical records he relied on in forming his opinion which are admitted into evidence, as long as he lays the proper foundation.

Eagan is qualified to testify as to the causal relationship between Plaintiff’s complaints and her reported injury

Defendants next argued that there was “no evidentiary foundation” in the medical records for Eagan’s opinions that: (1) Plaintiff “suffered a torn labrum of the right hip”; (2) Plaintiff will “more likely than not develop arthritis of the right hip and require a hip replacement during her lifetime”; and (3) Plaintiff “is not able to perform heavy labor or place excessive loads on her injured pelvis.” The Court  held that Defendants’ arguments “were more appropriate for cross examination” of Eagan at trial.

Defendants also asserted that Eagan was not qualified to testify based on his diagnostic tests “whether or not there is symptom magnification” by Plaintiff because this falls under the purview of a psychologist. The Court found that Eagan was qualified to testify as to the causal relationship between Plaintiff’s complaints and her reported injury, as long as he lays a proper foundation.

Defendants argued that Eagan’s opinion that Plaintiff “will require cesarean section for delivery of any children” should be precluded because “there is no evidentiary basis.” The Court disagreed and held that Defendants’ challenge is an appropriate subject for cross-examination. 

Defendants added that Eagan’s opinion regarding whether Plaintiff will require a cesarian section for delivery of any children is cumulative of Plaintiff’s OB/GYN witness. The Court did not have sufficient information regarding the OB/GYN witness’ testimony to determine whether Eagan’s testimony would be cumulative.

2. Stanley Gale

To begin with, Defendants first argued that Gale is not qualified to give expert testimony because he did not “have the levels of knowledge, experience, or skill in the area of accident reconstruction or ski area operations” necessary to provide an expert opinion. Defendants asserted that his opinions were “speculative and conclusory.” The Court found that Gale is qualified to testify as to the customs and practices of the ski industry, including safety standards and practices.

Defendants next argued that Gale should be precluded from testifying that the snow gun was not marked, and his expert disclosure that the snow gun was not marked should be stricken. They contended that photographs obtained from Plaintiff showed that an orange lollipop marked the snow gun with which Plaintiff collided.

Defendants asserted that because Gale previously gave testimony that properly placed Catamount lollipops [marking snow guns] met the State Code, Gale should be precluded from testifying that the snow gun was unmarked. The Court disagreed and refused to exclude Gale’s testimony regarding that aspect.

Despite Defendant’s objections, the Court held that Gale had the requisite expertise to opine on practices related to padding a snow gun located on a ski trail. However, Gale must testify based on his personal knowledge, and he must explain how his personal experience leads to his conclusions.

Moreover, Defendants contended that Gale should be precluded from testifying that a ski trail “is not limited to the groomed surface” because he previously testified “on multiple occasions that there is a difference between grooming beginner and expert trails.” The Court held that Gale’s previous testimony was insufficient to preclude him from testifying whether a ski trail is limited to the groomed surface.


To sum it up, the Court denied Plaintiff’s motion in limine to preclude Irving Scher’s testimony. The Court reserved decision on Defendants’ motion in limine as to a certain aspect of Thomas Eagan’s testimony until trial but denied the Defendants’ motion in limine to preclude or limit Stanley Gale’s testimony.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Court insisted on a proper foundation for each of the expert’s opinions. That is to say, Courts routinely examine the factual bases of expert opinions before arriving at a decision.
  • Above all, if the witness is relying solely or primarily on experience, they must explain how their personal experience leads to their conclusions.

Case Details:

Case Caption:Perrone V. Catamount Ski Resort, Llc Et Al
Docket Number:1:20cv563
Court Name:United States District Court, New York Northern
Date:May 09, 2024


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *