Lyons v. Leatt Corporation
OPINION AND ORDER: The Court hereby DENIES the Motion to Strike Declaration of Tyler Kress, Ph.D. 74 , GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the Motion to Strike Affidavit of Ryan Hughes 85 , GRANTS the Motion in Limine to Exclude Proposed Opinion Testimony by Tyler Kress, Ph.D. 55 , and GRANTS the Motion in Limine to Exclude Proposed Opinion Testimony by Ryan Hughes 58 . Signed by Magistrate Judge Paul R Cherry on 9/14/2017. (jss)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
HAMMOND DIVISION AT LAFAYETTE
BROCK C. LYONS,
CAUSE NO.: 4:15-CV-17-PRC
OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on a Motion in Limine to Exclude Proposed Opinion
Testimony by Tyler Kress, Ph.D. [DE 55], filed by Defendant Leatt Corporation on May 1, 2017;
a Motion in Limine to Exclude Proposed Opinion Testimony by Ryan Hughes [DE 58], filed by
Defendant on May 1, 2017; a Motion to Strike Declaration of Tyler Kress, Ph.D. [DE 74], filed by
Defendant on May 19, 2017; and a Motion to Strike Affidavit of Ryan Hughes [DE 85], filed by
Defendant on June 6, 2017. All motions were fully briefed as of June 9, 2017.
In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Brock Lyons alleges that he was injured on April 13,
2014, when the Moto GPX Sport Leatt-Brace, advertised, marketed, distributed, and promoted by
Defendant Leatt Corporation, “caused and/or failed to protect Plaintiff from serious bodily injury”
while Plaintiff used the brace in a reasonably foreseeable manner.
Count I is brought under the Indiana Products Liability Act, alleging that Defendant should
be held strictly liable as a designer, manufacturer, distributor, and seller of the brace, which was in
a defective condition and unreasonably dangerous to expected users such as Plaintiff. Count II
alleges a claim of breach of warranty for failing to protect Plaintiff from serious bodily injury,
alleging that Defendant made implied and express warranties that the brace was reasonably fit for
the general uses and purposes intended and that it was free of any defects in its design or
construction. Count III alleges that Defendant negligently designed, manufactured, marketed, and
distributed the brace in such a manner that it created an unreasonable risk of physical harm and
injury and that Defendant failed to warn of the known and foreseeable hazard of the brace. Count
IV alleges gross negligence and seeks punitive damages. On November 10, 2015, the Court
dismissed Count V, which alleges deceptive and misleading advertising and marketing.
I. ACCIDENT DESCRIPTION
On April 13, 2014, 28-year-old Plaintiff Brock Lyons was riding his 2013 Honda 450cc dirt
bike on a Rossville, Indiana, track called Wildcat Creek MX. Plaintiff was practicing for a
qualifying round of the Loretta Lynn National Amateur Competition. The weather was a typical
spring morning, between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and the track was in good condition.
Plaintiff was familiar with the track’s layout, having ridden the Wildcat Creek track close to a
hundred times over the preceding ten years. He was wearing a motocross jersey and motocross
boots, pants, gloves, and goggles as well as a full-face ATR-1 motocross helmet made by 6D and
a 2007 Moto GPX Sport Leatt-Brace—a neck brace (“Leatt Brace”). Plaintiff had worn this Leatt
Brace for seven years, from 2007 to 2014, and he had never “had a wreck” with his Leatt Brace
before April 13, 2014. (ECF 59-1, pp. 141-42, 146).
That day, Plaintiff lost control and was thrown off the motorcycle as he was negotiating a
step-up jump on the east side of the track. He testified that he went up the jump at about 40 mph but
came back down “nose-high,” i.e., touching down with the rear wheel only, with the front wheel in
the air at a 55-degree angle to horizontal:
I was trying to get the bike down and trying to get the bike down, and it just landed
nose high. And when it did, it landed so hard on the rear that it threw me forward.
When it landed, it slapped, and the front end came down, and I came over the front
left of the handlebars.
(ECF 56, Ex. A, pp. 167-68). Plaintiff testified that it is not uncommon to land nose high, stating that
“[w]e run into it quite often.” Id. at p. 171. But, he testified that, on the day of the incident, “it
slapped so hard it just sent me over the bars. I couldn’t hold on.” Id. at p. 172. Hurled forward,
Plaintiff struck the ground head first, with the initial point of impact near the top of his helmet above
the left eye. Id. at pp. 177-78. A fraction of a second after the impact, Plaintiff felt “everything go
numb” and log-rolled down the grassy hill beside the track. Id. at pp. 173-74.
Plaintiff suffered a thoracic spinal cord injury, specifically “three-column” fractures at the
thoracic vertebra at T5-T6. Ejected fragments of the shattered vertebrae nearly obliterated his spinal
canal. Other injuries included “jumped facets” at T5-T6, spinal cord edema from T4 to T7, and
intradural hematoma with cord compression extending down to T10. Plaintiff had no acute injury
to either his brain or his neck.
Plaintiff alleges that the Leatt Brace is defective because it restricts a rider’s range of motion
while wearing the brace. (ECF 71, pp. 1-2).
Plaintiff timely disclosed Tyler Kress, Ph.D. and Ryan Hughes as expert witnesses in this
case. In the instant motions, Defendant seeks to exclude the opinion testimony of both.
II. MOTION TO STRIKE
DECLARATION OF TYLER KRESS, PH.D.
In support of his response to Defendant’s Motion in Limine to Exclude Proposed Opinion
Testimony by Tyler Kress, Ph.D., Plaintiff attaches the May 15, 2017 Declaration of Dr. Kress,
which was drafted for the purpose of responding to the Motion in Limine. In the instant Motion to
Strike, Defendant argues that Dr. Kress’ Declaration is a supplemental report aimed at remedying
the deficiencies in Dr. Kress’ original opinions identified by Defendant. Defendant argues that this
supplemental report should be stricken under Rule 37(c) as untimely for having been disclosed after
Plaintiff’s Rule 26(a)(2) disclosure deadline.
In the Motion to Strike, Defendant identifies only one “new” opinion by Dr. Kress in the
May 15, 2017 Declaration: “I believe Brock Lyons had a much improved opportunity to avoid injury
if he was not wearing the Leatt neck brace . . . .” (ECF 75, p. 4 (quoting (ECF 72, p. 5, ¶ 12))).
Defendant contrasts this statement with the “original” opinion in Dr. Kress’ November 4, 2016 Rule
26 report that “it would be more likely Brock would not have sustained the catastrophic spinal cord
injury if he had not been wearing the brace.” Id. (quoting (ECF 56-2, p. 10)). Defendant argues that
these statements represent a different level of evidentiary proof. See id. However, a cursory
comparison of Dr. Kress’ Declaration and Dr. Kress’ original Rule 26 report show that both the
“new” and “original” opinions are in both documents. Compare (ECF 72, p. 5, ¶ 12), with (ECF 562, p. 9); compare (ECF 72, p. 5, ¶ 11), with (ECF 56-2, p. 10); see also (ECF 72, p. 5, ¶ 11) (Dr.
Kress’ Declaration citing the original Rule 26 report). To the extent Defendant raises other specific
purported inconsistencies for the first time in its reply brief, such as the nature of Dr. Kress’ doctoral
degree, any such argument is waived as untimely. See (ECF 84, p. 2).
Based on the arguments raised by Defendant, the Court denies the Motion to Strike Dr.
Kress’ Declaration. The Court nevertheless weighs the import of Dr. Kress’ Declaration in light of
his original Rule 26 report and the arguments and case law in the parties’ briefs on the Motion in
Limine. Specifically, the explanation in paragraph 12 of the Declaration setting forth why Dr. Kress
believes that a limitation in range of motion in the neck and head causes axial forces to increase in
the spine based on Newton’s law and the axial and bending forces of the spine was not included in
either his original report or his deposition and, thus, is untimely and will not be considered. See
(ECF 72, pp. 5-6, ¶ 12).
III. MOTION IN LIMINE TO EXCLUDE
PROPOSED OPINION TESTIMONY BY TYLER KRESS, PH.D.
Defendant Leatt Corporation asks the Court to exclude the expert opinion testimony of Tyler
Kress, Ph.D., offered by Plaintiff Brock C. Lyons. Defendant argues that, because Dr. Kress ignored
the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(B), his report should be excluded under
the mandatory exclusion provisions of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(c). In addition, Defendant
argues that Dr. Kress’ report and his discovery deposition demonstrate that his opinions do not meet
the admissibility criteria of Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert or the foundational
requirements of Federal Rule of Evidence 703. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that
Dr. Kress’ report and opinions must be excluded under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(c) and
that his opinions are not admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert.
A. Dr. Kress’ Opinions
On November 4, 2016, Dr. Kress authored a 27-page expert report setting forth his “opinions
regarding a sports injury accident that occurred on April 13, 2014, involving a single off-road
motorcycle,” namely the April 13, 2014 injury to Plaintiff underlying the instant lawsuit. See (ECF
56-2, p. 1).
In the Introduction, Dr. Kress writes, “Unfortunately, as you are well aware, April 13, 2014,
was unique and different from his past experiences in that [Brock] was wearing the Leatt-Brace™
(herein referred to as the Leatt brace). The Leatt brace introduced devastating biomechanical
constraints, i.e restricting Brock’s head’s range of motion (ROM) and increasing spinal loading,
ultimately resulting in an otherwise avoidable spinal cord compromise.” Id. (emphasis added).
Dr. Kress then sets forth his “Qualifications/Experience, Case List, and Fees.” Id. at pp. 1-2.
The next section of the report is titled, “Material Reviewed/Basis for Findings/Opinions,”
which provides, “In accord with your request, I have reviewed available case material including the
following[.]” Id. at p. 2. The list of materials reviewed spans seven pages. Then, on page 9 of the
report, the last subsection titled “Findings/Opinions” provides:
Findings/Opinions: The intent of this report is to succinctly state my
findings/opinions and the basis thereof. As stated previously, I would like to reserve
the right to possibly supplement this report if allowed by the court as discovery
proceeds and if further work is performed.
The following bullets represent key axioms associated with “product safety
management”. Generally speaking, all of the below axioms are the responsibilities
of a prudent manufacturer of a product.
In so far as possible, foreseeable hazards will be reduced to
acceptable levels through the design process.
Hazards that cannot be “designed away” will be
appropriately guarded against.
The production process will have appropriate manufacturing
facilities and have QA/QC methods to assure that the product
meets the design specifications.
Products will be tested to validate their safety status.
Improvements will be made through design iteration.
Users will have appropriate manuals, training, qualification,
and necessary warnings so that they understand the hazards
and are knowledgeable users.
The actual use experience will be monitored and feedback
obtained to permit possible improvements in safety, design,
production, warnings, and manuals.
1. Foreseeable hazards were not appropriately addressed in the design of the subject
product. The intent of the subject product (as you know) is to be “protective” against
spinal injuries, yet it fails to protect against well-known key catastrophic
mechanisms of spinal injury. In fact, fundamental biomechanics indicates that the
design markedly reduces a person’s natural ability to avoid/mitigate axial loading
and bending moments imparted onto the spine. It is clear that Leatt has applied a
“point design” approach mentality to its product with a focus on preventing neck
“bending-type” of injuries (e.g. flexion and extension related). Attention has been
paid to restricting head motion with the design criteria of reducing potential for
hyper-flexion- and hyper-extension type injuries at the expense of increasing and
exacerbating risk of other mechanisms of injury. Leatt’s design inappropriately
restricts an individual’s natural movement and their own ability to “tuck-and roll”
their head and use normal motions and/or their skills to manage the dynamics,
kinematics, and biomechanics of impact. While experiencing a “head first lawn dart”
type of scenario (using Leatt’s words), the Leatt brace constrains the neck from
hyperextension movement posteriorly and also hyperflexion anteriorly via
constraining the head. This increases the potential axial loading component imparted
to the spine which adversely alters the subsequent forces/moments within the
cervical spine. The human head needs to be able to avoid/minimize impact by using
its full range of motion and should not be forced into an orientation of the head/spine
such that the spine and neck are more vulnerable to vertebral body fractures,
retropulsion, compression and catastrophic injury. Brock received serious thoracic
injury consistent with the deficiencies of the brace design, and he had a much
improved opportunity to avoid such injury had he not been wearing the Leatt brace.
2. After thorough review of the available materials, it is my opinion that Leatt did
not adequately rely upon reasonable engineering analysis, testing, and/or literature
to validate the safety status of their brace. Certainly, their communications and
literature made claims that were not appropriate with respect to its safety claims.
Leatt did not adequately address the safety status/claims of their device through
dynamic testing, appropriate risk assessment, fault tree analysis, and/or other means.
The design did not adequately address hazards that can be identified through proper
analysis and through knowledge of previous incidents.
3. The rigidity (i.e. non-frangibility) of the Leatt brace and the existence of the
anterior ROM constraint are two primary problems with the device. My review of
the available materials in this matter, coupled with knowledge of the field of injury
biomechanics, yields the opinion that there is no reasonable scientific basis to infer
that, for catastrophic injuries often experienced by motocross riders,
stopping/restricting the ROM of the head (the way in which the Leatt brace does)
reduces overall injury risk. In fact, it is more reasonable to conclude that serious
injury risk is increased while possibly reducing some less serious and more minor
injury modes. With respect to the experiments at Virginia Tech that I conducted, the
resultant measured accelerations and forces that were imparted onto the test dummy
were extremely similar for the two different conditions, i.e. “with” the Leatt brace
as compared to “without”. Under the test conditions performed the use of the Leatt
brace does not have a considerable effect on spinal column loading. This includes
reducing neck compressive/axial loading.
4. The angular head acceleration, upper lateral neck moment and the lower
anterior-to posterior neck force were the only measured values that were slightly
lower for the tests “with” the Leatt brace. However, the differences in these
measurements are relatively small and unrelated to the catastrophic injury modes for
motorcross1 riders. A soft tissue “stinger” type of injury risk may be reduced, yet a
major injury risk such as that which was sustained by Brock, would not be reduced.
In fact, it would be more likely Brock would not have sustained the catastrophic
spinal cord injury if he had not been wearing the Leatt brace.
5. Devastating biomechanical constraints are introduced by the use of the Leatt
brace. Leatt’s design inappropriately restricts movement of the head about the torso
and one’s ability to “tuck-and-roll” and use skills to manage the dynamics,
kinematics, and biomechanics of impact. Limiting the range of motion of a
motorcross rider’s head with a neck brace increases and focuses compressive loads
onto the vertebrae.
6. Motorcross riders are better off not wearing the brace from an overall safety and
injury perspective. Reasonable consideration of proper engineering design,
biomechanical considerations, and testing results should have led Leatt to conclude
that any benefits that may be derived from potential reduction of certain injuries by
use of their brace did not outweigh the trade-off of introducing an increased risk of
the most serious injury modes of the spine.
Id. at pp. 9-10 (emphasis added).
The remainder of the report contains a signature page, see id. at p. 11; Dr. Kress’ summary
of highlights from Plaintiff’s August 18, 2016 deposition, see id. at pp. 12-20; and Dr. Kress’
summary of Plaintiff’s “Medical Record Highlights,” see id. at pp. 21-27. Dr. Kress also submitted
his curriculum vitae, see id. at pp. 28-40, and his four-year case list, see id. at pp. 41-43.2
Defendant took Dr. Kress’ discovery deposition on February 2, 2017.
B. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(B) requires that a retained expert witness provide
a written report containing:
Throughout his report, Dr. Kress refers to the sport of motocross as both “motocross” and “motorcross.”
In filing the instant Motion in Limine on the electronic docket, Defendant appended the exhibits from Dr.
Kress’ deposition to Dr. Kress’ Rule 26 report, see (ECF 56-2), rather than to the transcript of Dr. Kress’ deposition, see
(i) a complete statement of all opinions the witness will express and the basis and
reasons for them;
(ii) the facts or data considered by the witness in forming them;
(iii) any exhibits that will be used to summarize or support them;
(iv) the witness’s qualifications, including a list of all publications authored in the
previous 10 years;
(v) a list of all other cases in which, during the previous 4 years, the witness testified
as an expert at trial or by deposition; and
(vi) a statement of the compensation to be paid for the study and testimony in the
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2)(B)(i)-(vi).
The expert’s report “must include the ‘how’ and ‘why’ the expert reached a particular result,
and not merely the expert’s conclusory opinions.” Ciomber v. Coop. Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 635, 641
(7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Salgado v. Gen. Motors Corp., 150 F.3d 735, 741 n.6 (7th Cir. 1998)). The
“primary goal” of Rule 26(a)(2) is “to shorten or decrease the need for expert depositions.” Ciomber,
527 F.3d at 642 (quoting Salgado, 150 F.3d at 741 n.6).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(c)(1) mandates that, if a party fails to provide information
or identify a witness as required by Rule 26(a), “the party is not allowed to use that information or
witness . . . unless the failure was substantially justified or is harmless.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(c)(1); see
also Ciomber, 527 F.3d at 642 (citing Jenkins v. Bartlett, 487 F.3d 482, 487 (7th Cir. 2007)). This
is a self-executing sanction that is automatic and mandatory. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37 advisory
committee’s note to 1993 amendment (“[Rule 37(c)(1)] provides a self-executing sanction for failure
to make a disclosure required by Rule 26(a) . . . .”); Ciomber, 527 F.3d at 642. Although the Court
does not need to make specific findings concerning substantial justification or harmlessness, four
factors guide the Court’s determination of whether noncompliance with Rule 26(a) is harmless: (1)
the prejudice or surprise to the party against whom the evidence is offered; (2) the ability of the
party to cure the prejudice; (3) the likelihood of disruption to the trial; and (4) the bad faith or
willingness involved in not disclosing the evidence at an earlier date. Tribble v. Evangelides, 670
F.3d 753, 760 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting David v. Caterpillar, 324 F.3d 851, 857 (7th Cir. 2003)). A
party may not argue that a deficiency is harmless on the ground that a subsequent deposition could
cure any prejudice. Ciomber, 527 F.3d at 642.
Dr. Kress timely tendered a report pursuant to Rule 26(a)(2)(B), in which he set forth his
opinions, his qualifications, a list of his publications, his four-year case list, and a statement of his
compensation. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2)(B)(i), (iii)-(vi). However, Defendant argues that Dr.
Kress’ report should be excluded under Rule 37(c)(1) for failing to include a complete statement of
the basis and reasons for his opinions and for failing to include the facts or data he considered in
forming his opinions. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2)(B)(i)-(ii). Plaintiff responds that Dr. Kress’ report
is complete and in compliance with Rule 26 and that the failure to include certain information, such
as photographs, is harmless.
The Court finds that, despite its compliance with the other requirements of Rule 26(a)(2)(B),
Dr. Kress’ report fails to set forth the reasons for his opinions and the facts or data he considered in
forming his opinions. Because the omissions are not substantially justified or harmless, the report
is excluded as a sanction. The Court considers each of Defendant’s arguments in turn.
Surrogate Study and Photographs
First, Dr. Kress’ report did not disclose the fact that Dr. Kress conducted a biomechanical
“surrogate study” using Plaintiff, the measurements or data generated from the study, or
approximately 270 photographs, some of which were of the study. As described by Dr. Kress at his
deposition, surrogate studies are one of the tools employed by biomechanical engineers to
understand the interaction between a person and a product. (ECF 56-3, p. 23). In this instance, Dr.
Kress did not use a “surrogate” but rather used Plaintiff himself as a model for the study, taking
“range of motion” measurements and photographs of Plaintiff wearing the Leatt Brace and his
helmet: “[Y]ou can’t get a better surrogate in this matter than him, where I put the equipment on him
and took numerous measurements to help understand those biomechanics.” (ECF 56-3, p. 24). Also,
Dr. Kress testified that he took approximately 270 photographs of the accident scene as well as
during the undisclosed study of Plaintiff. (ECF 56-3, pp. 25-26, 31-32). Dr. Kress describes these
photographs as “showing the spacing between the brace and the helmet.” (ECF 56-3, p. 86).
Yet, there is no reference in his Rule 26 report to the study, the measurements, an analysis
of the measurements, the photographs, or how the study supports his opinions. (ECF 56-3, pp. 25-27,
86). It was not until his deposition that Dr. Kress revealed that he had done a biomechanical
reconstruction of the accident by assessing the ergonomics of Plaintiff wearing both his helmet and
the Leatt Brace. (ECF 56-3, p. 7, 23, 25-26). This is troubling because the premise of Dr. Kress’
opinion is that Plaintiff’s range of motion was restricted by the Leatt Brace, preventing him from
doing a “tuck and roll” that allegedly would have permitted him to avoid landing head first and
avoid axial loading sufficient to injure his thoracic spine. Dr. Kress testified that this opinion is
based, along with speaking with Plaintiff, on this study. (ECF 56-3, pp. 84-86).
The failure to disclose the study and its measurements and data is not harmless. Plaintiff’s
expert witness disclosures were due November 25, 2016, and Defendant’s expert witness disclosures
were due January 27, 2017. The parties met those deadlines. Because Dr. Kress’ report omitted the
fact of the study, the data, the photos, and any analysis thereof, Defendant’s experts did not have the
benefit of the basis of Dr. Kress’ opinion in forming their own opinions and Defendant’s counsel
found himself conducting Dr. Kress’ deposition without knowing a critical basis of Dr. Kress’
testimony. Sherrod v. Lingle, 223 F.3d 605, 613 (7th Cir. 2000) (“The expert witness discovery rules
are designed to aid the court in its fact-finding mission by allowing both sides to prepare their cases
adequately and efficiently and to prevent the tactic of surprise from affecting the outcome of the
case.”); see also Ciomber, 527 F.3d at 642. In other words, Defendant was “ambushed” with this
information at Dr. Kress’ deposition. Kirkland v. Sigalove, No. 11 C 7285, 2015 WL 523673, at *4-5
(N.D. Ill. Feb. 6, 2015).
Rule 26(a)(2) “does not allow parties to cure deficient expert reports by supplementing them
with later deposition testimony.” Ciomber, 527 F.3d at 642 (citing Sherrod, 223 F.3d at 613;
Salgado, 150 F.3d at 741 n. 6). Plaintiff cannot cure Dr. Kress’ deficient report with his deposition
testimony or the untimely disclosure of his notes at the time of his deposition. Id. Yet, even at his
deposition, Dr. Kress did not identify any specific measurements, calculations, or analysis showing
how or to what extent the Leatt Brace reduced Plaintiff’s range of motion or showing how a
limitation in the range of motion affected Plaintiff’s ability to tuck and roll.
Similarly, Dr. Kress testified that, in his file, he has snapshots of video and testing done by
Leatt Corporation showing the limited range of motion, the helmet and brace space, and where the
helmet comes in contact with the brace, namely the Leatt Test KSKF 26A and Test KSKF 25A.
(ECF 56-3, pp. 85-86, 89, 90). However, Dr. Kress did not identify Test KSKF 26A or Test KSKF
25A in his report. (ECF 56-3, pp. 89-90). As with his own “surrogate study” using Plaintiff, Dr.
Leatt did not identify in his report these Leatt tests or the data from those tests that he asserts support
his opinion. (ECF 56-3, p. 91). Instead, his report references generally testing with and without the
brace with no supporting data or analysis. (ECF 56-3, p. 93).
Plaintiff argues that the failure to disclose the “surrogate study” along with its measurements,
data, and photographs is harmless because Dr. Kress stated in his report, “I have interviewed
[Plaintiff] as part of my efforts in this matter,” (ECF 56-3, p. 8), suggesting that Defendant should
have understood from this statement that photographs were taken. This argument is unavailing. The
representation that Dr. Kress interviewed Plaintiff is not a substitute for the disclosure of a study,
the data from the study, the analysis and conclusions drawn from the study, and the existence of
photographs taken as part of the study. Likewise, the fact that, during his earlier August 18, 2016
deposition, Plaintiff testified that measurements were taken by Dr. Kress does not change the
requirement that Dr. Kress include the data and analysis in his Rule 26 report if he relied on them
in forming his opinions. The burden is on Plaintiff’s expert to disclose in his report, and not on
Defendant to seek, the basis for and the data and facts relied upon in forming his opinions.
Plaintiff also argues that Defendant should not be surprised that Dr. Kress took photos and
measurements because Dr. Kress did something similar in a prior, separate litigation. But, Plaintiff
bases this argument on the mistaken belief that counsel for Defendant in this case represented
Defendant in that similar case—Keith Guiden v. Leatt Corporation. See (ECF 56-3, p. 126) (Dr.
Kress’ dep.); (ECF 73-2) (Guiden v. Leatt Corp. docket sheet). Regardless, Dr. Kress had an
obligation to include in his report the data and facts relied upon in forming his opinion.
In his response brief, Plaintiff quotes Salgado v. General Motors Corp. for its reference to
the Rule 26 advisory committee note that “[a] complete report must contain the substance of the
testimony which an expert is expected to give on direct examination together with the reasons
therefor.” 150 F.3d at 742 n.6. The footnote in Salgado then provides (not cited by Plaintiff), that
“[t]he report must be complete such that opposing counsel is not forced to depose an expert in order
to avoid ambush at trial; and moreover the report must be sufficiently complete so as to shorten or
decrease the need for expert depositions and thus to conserve resources.” Id. In Salgado, the Seventh
Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s exclusion of the expert because the Rule 26
report was insufficient in part because it was “devoid of any factual basis for its conclusory
opinions,” id. at 738, and affirmed the finding that the failure to comply with Rule 26 was not
harmless, id. at 742. Specifically, the court wrote: “No matter what GM’s experience with this issue
or with Salgado’s counsel may have been in the past . . . , GM had a right to know the conclusions
of these particular expert witnesses with respect to this particular accident.” Id. at 742. The instant
case is no different. Defendant had a right to know the factual basis for Dr. Kress’ opinion in this
case related to this Plaintiff, regardless of prior litigation.
Dr. Kress’ report is insufficient because it does not contain the factual basis for its
conclusory opinions, and the failure to comply was not harmless.
The Work of Grant Nelson
In his Rule 26 report, Dr. Kress lists the “deposition transcript” of “Grant Nelson—former
engineer for Leatt” as a material reviewed. See (ECF 56-2, p. 7). Thus, Defendant made a written
request for the Nelson deposition transcript in November 2016. However, the Nelson deposition
transcript was never produced prior to Dr. Kress’ deposition in February 2017.
At his deposition, Dr. Kress testified that his opinion relies in part on work performed by
Grant Nelson, a former Leatt Corporation employee, to show “how the thoracic loads are increased
due to this particular design.” (ECF 56-3, p. 77). Dr. Kress testified that he read a deposition of
Nelson taken in a different litigation in which Nelson purportedly said there was an increase in
forces in the thoracic spine caused by wearing the brace during an incident. Id. at pp. 78-79. Yet,
Dr. Kress also testified that he cannot recall ever seeing any scientific study or report authored by
Nelson that contains data or testing that supports Dr. Kress’ theory in this case. (ECF 56-3, pp. 8081). If there were facts and data from reports authored by Nelson that Dr. Kress relied on in forming
his opinions in this case, those facts and data should have been included in Dr. Kress’ report in this
case. Moreover, Dr. Kress apparently based his opinion on these statements made by Grant Nelson
without having reviewed the scientific basis for Nelson’s statements, which goes to the reliability
of Dr. Kress’ opinion. See infra Part III.C (discussing Federal Rules of Evidence 702 and 703 and
Plaintiff responds that Nelson was not a “standard employee, but was a principle
research[sic] and designer of the brace.” (ECF 71, p. 9). Plaintiff’s counsel then makes the
unsupported statement: “Of particular note is that Grant Nelson’s testing and review indicated that
the brace does increase forces and that this information was relayed to Dr. Chris Leatt.” Id.
Inexplicably, Plaintiff offers no citation for this statement. Plaintiff neither quotes from a deposition
of Nelson making this statement, attaches a transcript of Nelson’s purported deposition, nor offers
evidence of data or testing done by Nelson in support of this alleged statement. The Court disregards
counsel’s statement regarding the substance of Nelson’s purported deposition testimony.
Thus, as with the surrogate study and the Leatt studies, Dr. Kress based his opinion in this
case on statements made by Grant Nelson in a deposition in separate litigation without having
reviewed the basis for Nelson’s statements and without including Dr. Nelson’s data in his report.
This omission is prejudicial and not harmless to Defendant because Defendant’s experts were unable
to review this data and analysis before giving their opinions.
Methodology for Reaching Findings/Opinions
Finally, Defendant argues that the most egregious omission from Dr. Kress’ Rule 26 report
is the failure to describe how Dr. Kress reached his “Findings/Opinions.” The Court agrees.
When asked at his deposition to indicate where in his report he performed a biomechanical
reconstruction of Plaintiff’s accident, Dr. Kress could not identify any portion of his report that set
out the data from such a reconstruction that formed the basis of his opinion. (ECF 56-3, pp. 7-12).
Rather, Dr. Kress referenced file documents that he brought with him to his deposition that he had
not previously disclosed. Id. at p. 8.
Dr. Kress explained: “But I would point to a lot of the foundation of that—nature of that
opinion would be found as far as material reviewed and basis for those findings/opinion in that
section that is actually called Material Reviewed/Basis for Findings and Opinions. That starts on
page 2 and ends on page 9.” (ECF 56-3, p. 8). Similarly, in his response brief, Plaintiff references
these pages as demonstrating Dr. Kress’ methodology. However, pages 2 through 9 of the report
contain only a list of the materials Dr. Kress reviewed; they do not contain a description of any
reconstruction of Plaintiff’s accident or a description of the process, method, or theory Dr. Kress
used to generate his conclusions regarding the cause of Plaintiff’s thoracic injuries. Yet, Dr. Kress
testified that pages 2 through 9 are “the best place to characterize my methodology . . . as succinctly
and as organized as I can.” (ECF 56-3, pp. 19-20). In his response brief, Plaintiff does not identify
any statements in Dr. Kress’ report articulating how he arrived at his opinions based on the listed
materials. Dr. Kress’ report fails to provide the “how and why” he reached his result and, thus, falls
short of the requirements of Rule 26. Ciomber, 527 F.3d at 641 (quoting Salgado, 150 F.3d at 741
This prejudice to Defendant is not harmless in light of the timing of the parties’ expert
witness exchanges, detailed above. Therefore, when Dr. Kress (Plaintiff’s expert) testified on
February 2, 2017, about the studies and data omitted from his report, Plaintiff was already in
possession of Defendant’s expert witness disclosures. Yet, Defendant’s experts had neither seen nor
been able to test the data and methodology of Plaintiff’s earlier-disclosed expert.
Again, Plaintiff’s citation to case law is curious. Plaintiff cites General Electric Co. v.
Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 146 (1997), for the quotation, “[C]onclusions and methodology are not
entirely distinct from one another. Trained experts commonly extrapolate from existing data.”
However, Plaintiff omits the following sentence in Joiner: “But nothing in either Daubert or the
Federal Rules of Evidence requires a district court to admit opinion evidence that is connected to
existing data only by the ipse dixit of the expert. A court may conclude that there is simply too great
an analytical gap between the data and the opinion proffered.” Id. As discussed more thoroughly
below in Part III.C in the context of Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert, Dr. Kress’ opinion is
connected to the underlying materials only by his ipse dixit—his say-so.
Plaintiff represents, without citation to any record, that Dr. Kress has acquired a large library
of research and literature, has a great deal of personal experience, and has been retained to testify
in many cases regarding the Leatt neck brace. (ECF 71, p. 12). While these statements may be true,
they do not fill in the analytical gap in Dr. Kress’ Rule 26 report.3
Plaintiff cites Bunch v. State, 964 N.E.2d 274, 295 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012), which is an Indiana Court of Appeals
case. However, in his brief, Plaintiff inaccurately attributes the case to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals “(7th Cir.
2012)” rather than the Indiana Court of Appeals. See (ECF 71, p. 12).
Rule 37(c)(1) Sanctions
Plaintiff’s violation of Rule 26(a) was neither substantially justified nor harmless because
of the prejudice to Defendant. The prejudice and surprise to Defendant cannot be cured given the
timing of expert disclosures. See David, 324 F.3d at 857; see also Kirkland, 2015 WL 523673, at
*7. As a result, Dr. Kress’ report and opinions are excluded. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(c)(1).
C. Federal Rules of Evidence 702 and 703 and Daubert
Separate from the exclusion under Rule 37(c)(1), Dr. Kress’ opinions are inadmissible
pursuant to Federal Rules of Evidence 702 and 703 and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals,
Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), which govern the admissibility of expert testimony. See United States v.
Pansier, 576 F.3d 726, 737 (7th Cir. 2009).
Rule 702 provides:
A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or
education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the
trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.
Fed. R. Evid. 702.
Under Rule 702 and Daubert, district courts engage in a three-step inquiry to determine the
admissibility of proffered expert testimony, asking whether (1) “the witness is qualified,” (2) “the
expert’s methodology is scientifically reliable,” and (3) “the testimony ‘will assist the trier of fact
to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.’” Myers v. Ill. Cent. R.R. Co., 629 F.3d
639, 644 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ervin v. Johnson & Johnson, Inc., 492 F.3d 901, 904 (7th Cir.
District courts serve a “gatekeeping” function to ensure that expert testimony is both relevant
and reliable. Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 147 (1999). “The purpose of the Daubert
inquiry is to scrutinize proposed expert witness testimony to determine if it has ‘the same level of
intellectual rigor that characterizes the practice of an expert in the relevant field’ so as to be deemed
reliable enough to present to a jury.” Lapsley v. Xtek, Inc., 689 F.3d 802, 805 (7th Cir. 2012)
(quoting Kumho Tire, 526 U.S. at 152). When determining the reliability of a qualified expert’s
testimony under Daubert, courts consider, among other things: (1) whether the proffered theory can
be and has been tested; (2) whether the theory has been subjected to peer review; (3) whether the
theory has been evaluated in light of potential rates of error; (4) whether standards and controls exist
and were maintained; and (5) whether the theory has been accepted in the relevant scientific
community. United States v. Lewisby, 843 F.3d 653, 659 (7th Cir. 2016) (citing Daubert, 509 U.S.
at 593-94). “[N]o single factor is either required in the analysis or dispositive as to its outcome.”
Baugh v. Cuprum S.A. de C.V., 845 F.3d 838, 844 (7th Cir. 2017) (quoting Smith v. Ford Motor Co.,
215 F.3d 713, 719 (7th Cir. 2000)).
“A court’s reliability analysis does not end with its conclusion that an expert is qualified to
testify about a given matter. Even ‘[a] supremely qualified expert cannot waltz into the courtroom
and render opinions unless those opinions are based upon some recognized scientific method.’”
Smith, 215 F.3d at 718 (quoting Clark v. Takata Corp., 192 F.3d 750, 759 n.5 (7th Cir. 1999)). The
Daubert analysis applies to all expert testimony under Rule 702, not just scientific testimony.
Kumho Tire Co., 526 U.S. at 147.
Federal Rule of Evidence 703 provides that “[a]n expert may base an opinion on facts or data
in the case that the expert has been made aware of or personally observed.” Fed. R. Evid. 703. In
addition, “[i]f experts in the particular field would reasonably rely on those kinds of facts or data in
forming an opinion on the subject, they need not be admissible for the opinion to be admitted.” Id.
As noted above in the Rule 26 analysis, the United States Supreme Court has upheld the
exclusion of expert testimony that the district court found “did not rise above subjective belief or
unsupported speculation,” reasoning that “[t]rained experts commonly extrapolate from existing
data. But nothing in either Daubert or the Federal Rules of Evidence requires a district court to
admit opinion evidence that is connected to existing data only by the ipse dixit of the expert. A court
may conclude that there is simply too great an analytical gap between the data and the opinion
proffered.” General Electric Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 140, 146 (1997).
Dr. Kress opines in his report that wearing the Leatt Brace “increases spinal loading” in the
event of an accident because the neck brace limits the wearer’s range of motion, which in turn
causes “devastating biomechanical constraints,” preventing the wearer from performing a “tuck and
roll” to “manage the dynamics, kinematics, and biomechanics of impact,” which in turn “increases
and focuses compressive loads onto the vertebrae.” (ECF 56-2, p. 10, opinion paragraph 4).
Defendant argues that Dr. Kress’ opinions should be excluded under Rule 702 because of
insufficient facts or data, unreliable methods, and a failure to account for obvious alternative
explanations. The Court addresses each argument in turn.
Sufficiency of the Facts and Data
First, as set forth in detail in the Rule 26 analysis in Part III.B above, Dr. Kress did not
include in his report the facts, data, and calculations upon which he relied in forming his opinions.
Second, eight of the eleven pages of Dr. Kress’ written report is a list of “Materials
Reviewed/Basis for Findings/Opinions.” The first two dozen of the items appear to be related to this
litigation. See (ECF 56-2, p. 2-3). The remaining materials are from separate lawsuits such as
Guiden v. Leatt Corp., Maddock v. Leatt, Kemmer v. Leatt Corp., and Tarrant v. Leatt. Thus, Dr.
Kress appears to rely heavily on materials from other lawsuits brought by different plaintiffs, yet
offers no analysis of how those lawsuits are similar to the instant lawsuit and includes no data or
facts from the biomechanical analyses in those lawsuits. Dr. Kress does not explain why or how the
hearsay communications from witnesses in other lawsuits who were not disclosed in this case and
who were supplied to him by unidentified individuals, would or should be information on which an
expert would reasonably rely in accordance with Rule703. Dura Auto. Sys. of Ind., Inc. v. CTS
Corp., 285 F.3d 609, 613 (7th Cir. 2002); In re James Wilson Assocs., 965 F.2d 160, 172-73 (7th
Cir. 1992); see also C.W. ex rel. Wood v. Textron, Inc., 807 F.3d 827, 837 (7th Cir. 2015) (“This
approach is not the stuff of science. It is based on faith in his fellow physicians—nothing more.”).
Plaintiff’s response brief does not offer anything more substantive, asserting generally: “Here, the
other accidents are similar in nature and quite useful to the experts in analyzing the defective design
of the subject neck brace. All other accidents mentioned involve unrestrained, dirt bike riders,
wearing a Leatt neck brace and suffering serious injuries to their spines.” (ECF 71, p. 11).
Third, Dr. Kress stated in his Rule 26 report that “April 13, 2014 was unique and different
from his past experiences in that [Plaintiff] was wearing the Leatt-Brace,” bringing into question the
accuracy of the information upon which he relied. (ECF 56-2, p. 1). Plaintiff testified that he wore
his Leatt-Brace for seven years, from 2007 to 2014, but that he had never “had a wreck” with his
Leatt Brace before the incident at issue in this case. (ECF 59-1, pp. 141-42, 146). Yet, in the
previous paragraph of his report, Dr. Kress wrote:
As is common in motocross, [Plaintiff] “wrecked” and specifically mislanded while
riding his motorcycle (herein referred to as his bike) over mounds. He had
experienced similar dynamics and separation from his bike previously throughout his
riding years. He was skilled at handling such incidents and had developed his natural
abilities in avoiding and mitigating injuries from substantially similar body contact
with the ground after a wreck.
(ECF 56-2, p. 1). Dr. Kress based his opinion in part on the erroneous belief that Plaintiff did not
normally wear his brace and had previously experienced similar falls without a brace, when in fact
Plaintiff had worn the Leatt Brace consistently for seven years. See (ECF 56-3, pp. 188-89, 192).
Dr. Kress’ Methods
First, Dr. Kress does not articulate what method he used to arrive at his opinions other than
drawing conclusions based on his years of knowledge and experience and on the materials he
reviewed. As noted in the previous section and in the Rule 26 analysis above, Dr. Kress did not
identify the specific data on which he based his opinion. Thus, Dr. Kress is not extrapolating from
existing data. See Joiner, 522 U.S. at 146. Dr. Kress has not specifically identified any mathematical
equation, principle of physics or biomechanics, formula, or test results that support his hypothesis
regarding the effect of wearing the Leatt Brace on the thoracic spine during an incident such as the
one that Plaintiff experienced. Compare Lapsley, 689 F.3d at 808 (affirming the district court’s
finding that the expert’s testimony did not lack a scientific basis because he relied on “commonly
known methodologies and physics calculations,” including Bernoulli’s equation regarding energy
in moving fluids and reference to “widely accepted factors concerning the force necessary to
penetrate human skin”).
Second, Dr. Kress did not rely on published or peer-reviewed work by others: “I did not take
on[sic] effort in my report to go through a literature review and pick out articles that I felt like were
supportive of my opinion.” (ECF 56-2, pp. 55-56). He explains, “And the reason why is because I
have a knowledge base based on decades of work, review of thousands of articles and teaching the
subjects.” Id. at 56. This amounts to the ipse dixit testimony condemned by the Supreme Court in
Joiner. See Joiner, 522 U.S. at 146.
Third, when asked about the variables that affect the axial load on the human spine in a headfirst impact, Dr. Kress testified, “[T]here’s some complex forces at play and that they are different
types of forces, like compression, shear, torsional, bending. And the vector of the input influences
that certainly and influences their distribution and which ones are higher in magnitude and which
ones are more significant or not.” (ECF 56-3, pp. 118-19). But Dr. Kress offers no facts, data,
calculations, or analysis to show how the forces at play (compression, shear, torsional, bending ) and
the vector of the input under the circumstances of Plaintiff’s accident could lead to the conclusion
that the Leatt Brace caused Plaintiff’s injuries by restricting his range of motion and preventing him
from performing a tuck and roll that would have avoided his injuries. See (ECF 56-3, pp. 120-21).
In fact, Dr. Kress’ report itself does not include the fact that Plaintiff landed head first, see
(ECF 56-3, pp. 116); this fact is only contained in the appendix of Dr. Kress’ summary of Plaintiff’s
testimony, see (ECF 56-2, p. 12). In his report, Dr. Kress does not discuss the position of the helmet
and the brace at impact. (ECF 56-3, p. 120). There is no scientific explanation of any interaction
between the helmet and the brace. Id. at p. 121. In his deposition, Dr. Kress offers no specifics,
referring only generally to the reports that he reviewed. In his deposition, Dr. Kress could not
identify any data or testing showing that any restriction of movement caused by the Leatt Brace
would cause the forces necessary to cause Plaintiff’s injury or that the restriction of movement
prevented Plaintiff from avoiding the impact at the angle at which it occurred. Id. at p. 125.
Fourth, Dr. Kress was asked at his deposition to identify where in his report he translated
Plaintiff’s recitation of what happened regarding his inability to tuck and roll into a scientific
explanation. Initially, Dr. Kress references his statement in opinion paragraph 1 that Plaintiff
“received his serious thoracic injuries consistent with those deficiencies in the brace design.” (ECF
56-3, p. 121); see also (ECF 56-2, p. 9). Dr. Kress then stated, “Well, the proof of my report is the
test reports and testing that I’ve done and that I’ve -I mention in my report.” (ECF 56-3, p. 123). Dr.
Kress then references the “surrogate studies” as a basis for his opinions. However, as noted in the
Rule 26 discussion above, Dr. Kress neither includes nor analyzes the data from any surrogate study,
the study he conducted of Plaintiff himself, or any testing done in other litigation.
The only testing specifically identified in his report is a general reference to the “experiments
at Virginia Tech”:
With respect to the experiments at Virginia Tech that I conducted, the resultant
measured accelerations and forces that were imparted onto the test dummy were
extremely similar for the two different conditions, i.e. “with” the Leatt brace as
compared to “without”. Under the test conditions performed the use of the Leatt
brace does not have a considerable effect on spinal column loading. This includes
reducing neck compressive/axial loading.
(ECF 56-2, p. 1, opinion paragraph 3). However, Dr. Kress’ report does not disclose or use data
generated by that Virginia Tech testing, does not explain that the testing was done in relation to the
Guiden v. Leatt Corporation litigation, and does not include any data from the injury in the Guiden
case. See (ECF 56-3, p. 145). On December 6, 2016, Defendant made a written request for the
“entirety of the data, notes, pictures, and work product from the testing Dr. Kress mentions being
conducted at Virginia Tech in 2012.” (ECF 56-4, p. 2). The 2012 Virginia Tech report was given
to Defendant the day before Dr. Kress’ February 2, 2017 deposition. See (ECF 56-5).
Although the 2012 Virginia Tech testing by Dr. Kress and his colleagues was not for the
purpose of understanding Plaintiff’s mechanism of injury, the testing is highly relevant. Guiden was
wearing a Leatt Brace and a helmet at the time of his motocross accident and injury. (ECF 56-3, p.
138). While riding his motorcycle, Guiden had an estimated forward velocity of 30-35 mph when
leaving the first jump and a peak vertical height of four to six feet above the top of the second jump.
(ECF 56-5, p. 1). Guiden landed on the apex of the second jump, resulting in the loss of forward
velocity of the motorcycle, his forward momentum carrying him over the handle bars, and his first
impact with the ground occurring on the front, top, right portion of the helmet. Id. Guiden’s legs
rotated over his head, and he sustained a number of lateral process fractures in the thoracic spine
with the most serious injury a T6 burst fracture. Id.; see also (ECF 56-3, p. 137). The Virginia Tech
test conditions were designed to mirror Guiden’s accident. (ECF 56-3, p. 137, 138); see also (ECF
56-5, p.1). Although Dr. Kress’ report does not include any data for Plaintiff’s accident regarding
the estimated height of the fall, the estimated impact velocity, or the estimated impact angle, Dr.
Kress believes that the data for Plaintiff is “very similar” to that of the Virginia Tech test. (ECF 563, pp. 45, 138-40, 146).
The Virginia Tech test used a Hybrid III anthropomorphic test dummy equipped with a
variety of sensors to record acceleration of the head, bending of the neck, and forces imparted to the
spine. (ECF 56-5, p. 4). The dummy was fitted with a full face helmet, positioned in front of an
impact piston, and struck in the top front right portion of the helmet to recreate a head-first impact.
Id. at p. 4. The test recreated a mirror reflection of Plaintiff’s impact on the front, top, left of his
helmet. Dr. Kress testified that Plaintiff is very similar in height and weight to the test dummy. (ECF
56-3, p. 146). To assess the difference created by wearing a Leatt Brace during a high-force, headfirst impact and to do “comparisons of constraints and performance,” two tests were run with a Leatt
Brace and two tests were run without the brace. (ECF 56-3, p. 138); (ECF 56-5, p. 2).
At his deposition, Dr. Kress was asked, “[W]hat do these data tell you about the creation of
or transfer of forces to the thoracic spine of the dummy during your testing?” (ECF 56-3, p. 160).
He responded, “[T]he acceleration and forces for the brace versus the no brace are extremely similar,
basically less than five percent variation for most all pieces of data. And, you know, certainly that’s
within experimental variation.” (ECF 56-3, p. 160). Thus, the Virginia Tech testing showed no
increase in the transfer of forces to the thoracic spine when wearing the Leatt Brace compared to not
wearing the Leatt Brace for the head-first impact.
As for data regarding range of motion, Dr. Kress testified that the data showed an affect on
range of motion when wearing the brace. He concluded that this prevents “the ability to tuck and
roll.” (ECF 56-3, p. 161). He testified, “Data comparing the two [tests] from a force and acceleration
standpoint are essentially not different as it relates to the catastrophic mechanisms. And–but it’s
basically a range of motion restricter. And that range of motion restricter makes it more vulnerable
for those increased catastrophic forces.” (ECF 56-3, p. 161). However, when asked to look at the
forces, even with a limitation on range of motion, Dr. Kress acknowledged that the data shows that
there was no increase in the “upper and lower neck forces measured down the spine” if the dummy
is wearing the brace versus not wearing the brace. (ECF 56-3, pp. 161-62).
When asked, “[T]he thesis that wearing the brace increases the forces is not demonstrated
by these data, is it?”, Dr. Kress replied, “This data doesn’t demonstrate that. However, what this data
does demonstrate also is that the wearing of the brace does not affect it one way or another. There
is no difference. It is not a neck protector for the catastrophic injuries.” (ECF 56-3, p. 162). But
Plaintiff in this case is not alleging that the brace failed to protect his neck; he is alleging that the
brace caused his catastrophic thoracic injury by restricting his range of motion.
Dr. Kress was then asked, “[S]how me where in the data that you obtained in 2012 from the
testing at Virginia Tech where you have demonstrated that there’s an increase in forces down the
axial spine created by wearing the Leatt-Brace.” (ECF 56-3, p. 162). Dr. Kress answered,
That wasn’t the intent of the testing. I did not try to demonstrate that. I did
not say the testing did do that.
What, what this test data did is it tells me that the acceleration and forces
associated with the brace versus the no brace are extremely similar, that the few
items that shows[sic] some difference that’s greater than experimental variation are
relatively small and they’re unrelated to thoracic burst fracture and— except for the
fact that this analysis does confirm when you look at the nature of the fitment of the
equipment that the range of motion is restricted more with the brace than no brace.
Therefore, due to the decrease in range of motion an individual is more
vulnerable to the axial type of loading. And the brace, will not produce that.
(ECF 56-3, p. 163) (emphasis added).
Thus, the 2012 Virginia Tech testing itself provides no scientific support for Dr. Kress’
opinion in his Rule 26 report that wearing the brace causes higher force on the thoracic spine due
to a limitation in the range of motion. No part of the test simulated the alleged movement permitted
by a greater range of motion without the brace that Dr. Kress opines would avoid the potential axial
loading on the spine. See (ECF 56-2, p. 9, opinion paragraph 1); see also (ECF 56-2, p. 10, opinion
paragraph 5 (“Limiting the range of motion of a motorcross rider’s head with a neck brace increases
and focuses compressive loads onto the vertebrae.”)). In other words, the Virginia Tech test did not
simulate an attempted tuck and roll with and without the brace.
Plaintiff is correct that the results of the Virginia Tech testing show that “the Leatt brace
restricted the head and neck movement when it was used.” (ECF 71, p. 15). And Plaintiff is correct
that this factual conclusion does not contradict Dr. Kress’ opinion. Id. Plaintiff then incorrectly
states that “how much it restricted the head and neck movement when used is for the jury to weigh.”
Id. How much the brace restricts head movement is a quantifiable physical measurement that is not
subject to weighing by the jury. Dr. Kress does not produce any such data.
There is a disconnect between the factual finding in the Virginia Tech study of some
restriction in the head and neck range of motion when wearing the Leatt Brace and Dr. Kress’
conclusions that Plaintiff was unable to perform a tuck and roll as a result of the limited range of
motion, that Plaintiff would have been able to perform a tuck and roll under the same conditions
without the brace, and that, as a result of a successful tuck and roll, Plaintiff would have landed in
a position that would not have resulted in the axial loading on his thoracic spine from the impact.
These are conclusions that require scientific analysis not provided by Dr. Kress.
In his response brief, Plaintiff asserts: “In regards to the study Dr. Kress conducted at
Virginia Tech in 2012, there is no reason to believe that his reasoning and methodology is not
reliable,” (ECF 71, p. 13), and: “All of Defendant’s arguments are criticisms of how the test was
performed, the results of the test,” id. at p. 15. The unsupported reassurances of counsel are
insufficient to establish reliability. Defendant has not argued that the Virginia Tech study’s
reasoning and methodology itself was not reliable nor has Defendant criticized how the testing was
performed or the results of the testing. Rather, the problem is that the Virginia Tech testing does not
support Dr. Kress’ thesis in this case that wearing the neck brace causes an increase in axial forces
imparted to the spine.4
Finally, the Court notes Defendant’s argument regarding two of Dr. Kress’ “collateral”
opinions. First, Dr. Kress opined that “Leatt did not adequately rely upon reasonable engineering
Although not at issue in this case because Plaintiff did not suffer a neck injury, the Virginia Tech testing
showed that torque (“bending moment”) in the test dummy’s upper neck was reduced by 24% when fitted with the Leatt
Brace. (ECF 56-3, pp. 159-60). Also, the test dummy’s angular head acceleration—that is, the movement of the head
backward in relation to the torso—was reduced by 32% when fitted with the Leatt Brace. Id. at pp. 157-58.
analysis, testing, and/or literature to validate the safety status of their brace.” (ECF 56-2, p. 10,
opinion paragraph 2). Defendant argues that there is no support for this opinion in his report. The
Court agrees. Nothing in Dr. Kress’ report discusses, critiques, analyzes, or even evaluates the
research and development preceding the sale of the Leatt Brace.
Second, Defendant argues that Dr. Kress’ opinion that the “rigidity” of the Leatt Brace is a
“primary problem” with the brace is also unsupported by any specific data or research other than Dr.
Kress’ conclusion based on his general knowledge. See (ECF 56-2, p. 10, opinion paragraph 3). The
only testing Dr. Kress identified in his report in support of this opinion is the Virginia Tech testing.
However, in his deposition Dr. Kress acknowledged that the brace is both adjustable and designed
to break away at specific loading points. (ECF 56-3, pp. 109-10). Dr. Kress testified that the Virginia
Tech testing measured forces applied to the test dummy’s thoracic spine near the “thoracic strut”
of the Leatt Brace and that the sensor placed under the strut during the two tests with the brace
recorded external forces of 48 and 51 newtons, respectively, an average of 11.46 pounds, far below
the brace’s designed-in breakaway load of 300 newtons. (ECF 56-3, pp. 105-06, 153-55). Dr. Kress
identifies no data, testing, or calculations showing that the thoracic strut or the “rigidity” of the Leatt
Brace increased the likelihood of a user, or specifically Plaintiff, experiencing “devastating
biomechanical restraints” and an increase in “compressive loads onto the vertebrae.” (ECF 56-2, p.
10, opinion paragraph 5).
Dr. Kress’ report in this case is silent as to how he determined that the limited range of
motion caused by the Leatt Brace prevented Plaintiff from performing a tuck and roll that in turn
would have prevented the injury Plaintiff sustained in his fall. Dr. Kress does not describe any tests
regarding the range of motion necessary to perform a tuck and roll, whether a tuck and roll was
possible under the circumstances, and whether a tuck and roll would have prevented Plaintiff’s
injury. See In re Fluidmaster, Inc., Water Connector Components Prods. Liab. Litig., No. 14-CV5696, 2017 WL 1196990, at *11 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 31, 2017). There are no “principles and
methodology” underlying the opinion related to the effect of tucking and rolling on injury to the
thoracic spine. See Am. Honda Motor Co., Inc. v. Allen, 600 F.3d 813, 818 (7th Cir. 2010) (citing
Winters v. Fru-Con, Inc., 498 F.3d 734, 742 (7th Cir. 2007)). Dr. Kress failed to “connect the dots”
between the studies and materials that he lists on pages 2-9 of his report and his conclusion. See
Textron, Inc., 807 F.3d at 837.
Thus, the Court cannot assess any of the five Daubert reliability factors regarding Dr. Kress’
theory, including “whether the expert’s theory or technique can be or has been tested,” 509 U.S. at
593-94, because Dr. Kress has not provided his method or testing for review. Dr. Kress’ leap from
Plaintiff’s representation of what occurred and the Virginia Tech testing to Dr. Kress’ untested
explanation renders his opinion unreliable.
Failure to Account for Obvious Alternative Explanations
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has recognized that, “[i]n deciding whether an expert
employed a reliable method, the district court has discretion to consider “‘[w]hether the expert has
adequately accounted for obvious alternative explanations.’” Brown v. Burlington N. Santa Fe Ry.
Co., 765 F.3d 765, 773 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Schultz v. Akzo Nobel Paints, LLC, 721 F.3d 426,
434 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Fed. R. Evid. 702 advisory committee’s notes to 2000 amendment)).5
Defendant argues that Dr. Kress’ causation opinion did not account for obvious alternative
explanations for Plaintiff’s thoracic injury.
Defendant describes the factor as “reasonable” alternative explanations, but the comments and case law
describe the factor as “obvious” alternative explanations.
Specifically, Defendant notes that, in the materials listed in Dr. Kress’ report are multiple
scientific and medical research articles demonstrating an alternative explanation for Plaintiff’s
injuries. Defendant obtained copies of several of those cited reports which showed that the most
common spinal injury caused by a severe, head-first impact is the very mid-thoracic spine injury
suffered by Plaintiff, and the literature explains the anatomical reasons for the injuries. All of the
articles were published before Dr. Leatt invented the Leatt Brace. (ECF 56-3, pp. 174, 182, 193, 196,
210). Defendant attached five such articles, spanning 37 pages. See (ECF 56-6).
For example, in a medical article reporting on injuries to 266 motorcycle accident victims,
researchers concluded, “The thoracic spine would seem to be particularly prone to trauma in a
motorcycle accident victim.” (ECF 56-6, p. 16 (“Thoracic Spine Injuries in Victims of Motorcycle
Accidents,” p. 595)). According to the authors of the article, the reasons for trauma to the thoracic
spine are anatomical:
As a person is catapulted over the handlebars of the motorcycle, flexion is
accentuated by the motion of the fall and by the body’s defense mechanism. This
flexion serves to straighten out the cervical spine but accentuate the curvature of the
thoracic spine. Forces from a blow to the top of the spine, or in this case across the
shoulders, would then be transferred down the axial skeleton until the area of
maximum curvature was encountered, the area between T4 and T7.
(ECF 56-6, p. 16).
In a second article, “Spinal Injury Patterns Resulting from Car and Motorcycle Accidents,”
researchers studied injuries to 1,121 motorcyclists with the objective of determining spinal injury
patterns. (ECF 56-6, p. 18). The “Conclusion” in the article’s abstract states, “The motorcyclists
were more severely injured, had more extremity trauma, a higher mortality rate, and a spinal injury
pattern consistent with forced hyperflexion of the thoracic spine.” Id. In the “Discussion” section,
the authors observed:
Thoracic injury in the unrestrained motorcyclist is thought to occur as a result of
hyperflexion of the spine on impact with objects. Axial loading is concentrated at the
point of maximal flexion and results in injuries predominantly in the midthoracic
spine (T4 -T7) with T6 reported as the commonest level.
(ECF 56-6, p. 21).
Defendant questioned Dr. Kress about the data and conclusions in these articles at his
deposition. (ECF 56-3, pp. 174, 182, 193, 196, 210). Dr. Kress conceded the accuracy of this data
and the anatomical explanations. See, e.g., (ECF 56-3, pp. 195-96). Dr. Kress was then asked to
differentiate these findings from his opinion that thoracic spine injury was more likely with the Leatt
Brace because axial loading is increased due to the limitation in the range of motion of the head, to
which he responded,
[T]he way you differentiate is the spine, the thoracic spine, is most vulnerable to
injury. And the — of the nature of [Plaintiff’s] injury, the burst compression fracture,
when you have it in a line such that you optimize or maximize that axial or
longitudinal load, that load is optimized and maximized when the range of motion
of the head is restricted. And the Leatt-Brace does that.
(ECF 56-3, pp. 200-01).
Counsel for Defendant then asked, “[I]f the literature establishes that [the] injury mechanism
occurs most commonly of all vertebral fractures when there’s no brace, how do you distinguish
between that fracture occurring with no brace and that fracture occurring, as you hypothesize,
because of a brace? How do you tell them apart?” (ECF 56-3, p. 201). Dr. Kress testified:
Well, independent of that from a biomechanical analysis standpoint, when
you examine the effects of it you can understand from an engineering analysis
standpoint that the forces and the axial load can be more highly concentrated in that
We know that from just testing. So that’s one thing that said with the – I
mean – and from the knowledge of the orientation of the anatomical structure of the
With that said now, then you take it in context with the data observed and the
analysis of the particular case at hand to understand what happened, what the skill
level of the rider was, what their experience was and how this compared to other
types of incidents or accidents that they have experience with and develop an opinion
based on the observed data, analysis and all the information on what’s more likely
See (ECF 56-3, pp. 201-02). This testimony does not differentiate between the anatomical
explanation for the thoracic fractures occurring without a brace and Dr. Kress’ theory that the
thoracic fractures occur because of the brace. Again, Dr. Kress offers no data in his report on the
degree to which the Leatt Brace restricts range of motion, and he has done no testing on the extent
to which that limitation may or may not affect an individual’s ability to tuck and roll in comparison
with no brace.
As with the Virginia Tech testing, counsel for Plaintiff attempts to reassure the Court, with
no citation to the record, that “[t]here is no reason to believe that Dr. Kress ignored any other
reasonable explanations.” (ECF 71, p. 14). Plaintiff cites In re Mirena, 169 F. Supp. 3d 396, 420
(S.D. N.Y. 2016), for its reasoning that “a lack of specific citation [to the studies] in her report goes
to the weight of her opinions, not their admissibility” and that “[t]he fact that these studies are listed
shows a reliable foundation upon which [the doctor] based her opinions.” However, in In re Mirena,
even though the specific studies were not cited, there was no dispute that the articles listed in the
doctor’s report contained the studies or that the studies said what the doctor reported. Id. In contrast,
in the instant case, the literature Dr. Kress cites in his report supports an alternate theory that is at
odds with his opinion and that Dr. Kress does not address in his report. In his response brief,
Plaintiff does not acknowledge the content of these articles or attempt to explain how they can be
reconciled with Dr. Kress’ opinion. The fact that Dr. Kress lists these articles but does not address
an obvious alternative explanation for Plaintiff’s injuries in his report suggests, contrary to
Plaintiff’s reassurances, that Dr. Kress did ignore this alternative explanation. Dr. Kress’ failure to
consider an obvious alternative explanation decreases the reliability of his opinion.
Plaintiff also asserts that Dr. Kress possesses the necessary education, skill, and experience
to offer his opinion in the biomechanical and biomedical engineering fields. (ECF 71, p. 14). But
Defendant does not challenge Dr. Kress’ qualifications. Defendant challenges the reliability of Dr.
Kress’ opinions. Although Plaintiff is correct that Dr. Kress is independent from Leatt Corporation,
his independence does not excuse the lack of a reliable methodology in forming his opinions.
Dr. Kress’ opinion is not “shaky” testimony that is admissible and subject to cross-
examination to be weighed by the jury; his testimony is scientifically unreliable and, thus,
inadmissible. Allen, 600 F.3d at 819 (quoting Gayton v. McCoy, 593 F.3d 610, 616 (7th Cir. 2010)
(quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 596)). For the reasons set forth above, the Court concludes that, under
Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and the standard set forth in Daubert, there is too great an analytical
gap between the data and Dr. Kress’ opinion and excludes his testimony on this basis. Textron, Inc.,
807 F.3d at 837 (internal quotation marks omitted (quoting Joiner, 522 U.S. at 138)). The Court
grants Defendant’s Motion in Limine to Exclude Proposed Opinion Testimony by Tyler Kress, Ph.D.
IV. MOTION IN LIMINE TO EXCLUDE
PROPOSED OPINION TESTIMONY BY RYAN HUGHES and
MOTION TO STRIKE AFFIDAVIT OF RYAN HUGHES
Defendant moves to exclude the opinion of Plaintiff’s expert Ryan Hughes on the basis that
his report does not comply with the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(B) and
on the basis that, under Rule 702 and Daubert, Mr. Hughes is not qualified to express opinions on
product design, product testing, medical causation, or accident reconstruction and failed to employ
a reliable methodology.
A. Ryan Hughes’ Opinion
On November 2, 2016, Ryan Hughes authored an opinion on the cause of Plaintiff’s thoracic
injury. The five-page report contains three sections: Background, Investigation, and Analysis and
Opinion. Throughout the report, Mr. Hughes offers the following opinions:
“In my conversation with [Plaintiff], we started talking about his crash and I told him exactly
what had happened to him by the position his body was in when he went off the jump. A position
his body was forced into from the inability to see up from an inadequate device.” (ECF 59-2, p. 1).
I then explained to him how he got paralyzed, explaining what happened after he was
thrown off the bike and when he hit the ground being unable to tuck his head. When
his head hit the ground, it was thrown backwards, pushing his head into the back of
the brace that is resting on his spine. When all that force is put into one specific area,
that is where the problem will occur. Every rider that has been paralyzed or has
broken their back with one of these untested so called neck braces, has broken their
backs right under the area where the brace stops at T4-5-6. [Plaintiff] was stunned
because he said that is exactly what had happened to him. I told him it was a classic
neck brace injury and there is no way around it.
Id. at p. 2.
The problems I see with this poorly tested Leatt brace are as follows:
1. The Leatt brace [Plaintiff] was wearing put him in a very dangerous
position [sic] a motorcycle. The Leatt brace is designed for after the crash has
happened and we have no control of how we will land after the crash has happened;
but the dangerous position you are in before the crash magnifies the percentage of
crashes. If you start out in a good position, you will end up in a good position. If you
start out in a bad position, you will end up in a bad position, no matter how big or
small the mistake or bobble is.
2. When wearing the Leatt brace and you go over the front on the bike like
[Plaintiff] did, you can’t move and tuck your head when riding a motorcycle because
the front of the brace is way too high, basically making you into a lawn dart. That is
why you don’t see any neck braces in America’s toughest sports like football and
hockey, because when they go [sic] the ground or hit another player they need to
instinctually be able to tuck their head and when your head is pushed forward, your
helmet smashes against the front of the brace and can easily brake[sic] ribs, sternums
and can lead to punctured lungs, bruised hearts, broken collarbones and dislocated
and broken shoulders.
3. It is in[sic] my opinion that the Leatt Brace pushed [Plaintiff’s] head over
the front of the motorcycle and contributed to the crash. When you are getting kicked
over the handle bars, the back of the brace has a fin that sticks out 6-8 inches that
pushes against the back of the helmet forcing your head down. In order to do a front
flip, you have to rotate your head forward, which is what the Leatt Brace is doing.
It pushes the rider’s head forward exaggerating that movement which is incorrect
when you’re being pushed over the handlebars. You want to get farther back on the
motorcycle, not go forward. Then when you[sic] head hits the ground, it can either
rotate to the side, front or back which will cause the helmet to hit the side, front or
back of the brace braking[sic] collar bones, dislocating shoulders, etc. or even
pulling the spinal column from the head. These injuries can occur because the head
will hinge from the leverage of the helmet and neck brace hitting it or it can push the
head backwards into the back of the brace, pushing into the immobilized plate that’s
resting directly on the spine at T4, T5 and T6. This is where Brock’s injury occurred,
breaking his back and causing him to be paralyzed for life.
Id. at p. 4 (emphasis added).
“[H]is head went backward and hit the back of the brace. This pushed the back of the brace,
which is made of hard Carbon fiber that has no movement or give, into his spine . . . . The Leatt
brace is 100% the cause of this tragic accident. The brace is in fault all the way with his injury, no
way around it or argument.” Id. at p. 5.
“The Leatt brace has been an inadequately tested product, with the majority of the testing
done within the company’s own facility or at their direction. The design is faulty because the brace
is designed to take the load of impact in a crash off the neck, but places all the inertia directly into
the spine.” Id.
“It is my opinion that the Leatt brace is a defective product because it prevented [Plaintiff]
from being able to tuck his head in the crash and put the force of the impact into his spine.” Id.
Defendant did not depose Mr. Hughes during discovery.
B. Admissibility of Ryan Hughes’ Opinions
As an initial matter, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendant’s Motion to Strike
Affidavit of Ryan Hughes. Plaintiff attached an Affidavit of Ryan Hughes dated May 29, 2017, in
support of his response to the instant Motion in Limine to Exclude Proposed Opinion Testimony by
Ryan Hughes. Most of the Affidavit does not offer information that would change the Court’s ruling
on the Motion in Limine, and the Motion to Strike is denied to that extent. However, to the extent
paragraphs 8 and 11 of the Affidavit contradict statements made in Mr. Hughes’ Rule 26 report
regarding forming his opinion at the outset of his conversation with Plaintiff and regarding his
experience wearing the Leatt Brace, the Court grants the Motion to Strike, striking paragraphs 8 and
11 of Mr. Hughes’ Affidavit.
Although the standard is set forth in more detail above in Part III.C, the Court again notes
that Federal Rule of Evidence 702 provides:
A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or
education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the
trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.
Fed. R. Evid. 702. Under Rule 702 and Daubert, the Court engages in a three-step inquiry to
determine the admissibility of proffered expert testimony, asking whether (1) “the witness is
qualified,” (2) “the expert’s methodology is scientifically reliable,” and (3) “the testimony ‘will
assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.’” Myers, 629 F.3d
at 644 (quoting Ervin, 492 F.3d at 904). In the instant motion, Defendant argues that Mr. Hughes
is not qualified and that his methodology is not scientifically reliable.
Mr. Hughes’ Qualifications
First, Defendant argues that Mr. Hughes lacks the knowledge, training, and experience
necessary to be qualified to give opinions regarding the testing of the Leatt Brace, whether the Leatt
Brace is “defective,” the reconstruction of Plaintiff’s accident, and the kinematics of Plaintiff’s
accident while wearing the Leatt Brace.
Mr. Hughes has been riding dirt bikes for nearly 40 years and raced for almost 30 of those
years, winning approximately 100 races. He has personally experienced hundreds of crashes,
including crashes similar to Plaintiff’s accident underlying this case. Mr. Hughes trains and advises
riders all over the world, including children and world champions, and he has personally observed
their experiences. He left professional racing when he crashed in February 2013, fracturing multiple
thoracic vertebrae; he was not wearing a Leatt Brace when he crashed.
“‘Whether a witness is qualified as an expert can only be determined by comparing the area
in which the witness has superior knowledge, skill, experience, or education with the subject matter
of the witness’s testimony.’” Gayton, 593 F.3d at 616 (quoting Carroll v. Otis Elevator Co., 896
F.2d 210, 212 (7th Cir. 1990)). In making this determination, a “court should consider a proposed
expert’s full range of practical experience as well as academic or technical training when
determining whether that expert is qualified to render an opinion in a given area.” Smith, 215 F.3d
While there is no question that Mr. Hughes is an expert on the sport of motocross based on
his specialized knowledge gained through years of personal experience, nothing in Mr. Hughes’
Rule 26 report identifies any education, training, or experience in product design, developmental
testing, accident reconstruction, medicine, or biomechanics. Thus, Mr. Hughes is not qualified to
testify on those technical or scientific topics regarding the mechanism of Plaintiff’s injury.
Contrary to Plaintiff’s assertion, Mr. Hughes’ “personal experience and accompanying
observations” in the sport of motocross does not mean that the “methodology Mr. Hughes applied
in analyzing [Plaintiff’s] accident and the subject Leatt neck brace are those that would regularly
be employed by other experts in the field.” (ECF 67, p. 4). Mr. Hughes’ opinion about what he
believes happened during Plaintiff’s accident based on his experience does not make him an expert
in the scientific and technical areas that are necessary for him to be qualified to testify at trial under
Rule 702 and Daubert as to the cause of Plaintiff’s crash or injury. This is not a situation in which
“[t]he fact that an expert may not be a specialist in the field that concerns [his] opinion typically
goes to the weight to be placed on that opinion, not its admissibility.” Hall v. Flannery, 840 F.3d
922, 929 (7th Cir. 2016) (emphasis added). In those instances, the expert is otherwise qualified, such
as a physician who is qualified to testify as to whether a seizure occurred even though the physician
is not specialized in pathology. Id. Mr. Hughes is not generally qualified in the necessary scientific
and technical fields to opine on causation in this case.
Mr. Hughes is qualified as a motocross expert and can give opinions based on that expertise
that would assist the jury in understanding the sport of motocross. See Kumho, 526 U.S. at 156.
However, none of his opinions on motocross topics are relevant to the issue of causation in this
matter. Thus, the opinions that he is qualified to give would not be useful to the jury.
Plaintiff also argues that Mr. Hughes’ motocross experience makes him an expert such that
his testimony would assist the jury “in understanding . . . the consequences of using the Leatt brace.”
(ECF 67, p. 4). However, Mr. Hughes’ Rule 26 report reveals that he does not have sufficient
personal experience with the Leatt Brace to assist the jury: “[A]fter I rode with [the brace] for the
first time, I almost crashed two times on the first lap going into a corner because I couldn’t see up!
I felt so awkward with it on because of the position it put me in. I took it off while I was riding,
threw it to my mechanic and told him to throw it in the trash . . . .” (ECF 59-2, p. 1). Although Mr.
Hughes has likely observed thousands of races in his career, he cannot have personal knowledge of
all races and all injuries across the country. Although he has observed “hundreds” of crashes, he
offers no statistics regarding how many of those involved a Leatt Brace, if any. While Mr. Hughes
is a motocross coach and trainer with decades of experience, nowhere does he quantify his
experience working with and/or observing the Leatt Brace; he does not represent that he has
personal experience training or coaching individuals who wear the Leatt Brace. Thus, Mr. Hughes
is not qualified based on experience to give opinion testimony regarding the effects of wearing the
Finally, Plaintiff’s attempt to define Mr. Hughes’ opinions on causation as “non-scientific”
is not well taken. See (ECF 67, p. 5). Although Mr. Hughes’ opinions regarding the sport of
motocross are not scientific, the cause of Plaintiff’s injury is. The relevant areas of his proposed
testimony are not about the sport of motocross but rather about accident reconstruction, kinematics,
biomechanics, product design, and product testing. Mr. Hughes’ motocross experience does not
align with the subjects of his causation opinions.
Reliability of Mr. Hughes’ Methodology
Second, Mr. Hughes’ opinions are not “ground[ed] in the methods and procedures of
science.” Daubert, 509 U.S. at 590-91. Even if he were qualified to give expert testimony, his
opinions fail all five of the Daubert reliability factors: (1) whether the proffered theory can be and
has been tested; (2) whether the theory has been subjected to peer review; (3) whether the theory has
been evaluated in light of potential rates of error; (4) whether standards and controls exist and were
maintained; and (5) whether the theory has been accepted in the relevant scientific community.
Lewisby, 843 F.3d at 659 (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 593-94).
Mr. Hughes’ opinions about the causation of Plaintiff’s physical injuries are based on
anecdotal evidence consisting of Mr. Hughes’ own observations as a participant in the motocross
sport, what he has “heard” about accidents, and what he believes happened to Plaintiff during his
accident. Mr. Hughes’ report contains no quantifiable data or statistics of any kind. Mr. Hughes
offers no evidence that he has ever undertaken product design or testing or performed biomechanical
reconstruction of accidents. He has no meaningful personal experience with the Leatt Brace, and he
offers no evidence that he did any scientific testing of the brace. He does not identify the medical
literature or knowledge that he relied upon to support his opinion that Plaintiff’s injury is a “classic
neck brace injury.” He offers no data or statistics on the number of motocross injuries that have
occurred, the types of injuries riders have suffered, and the variation in injuries with and without the
Leatt Brace. Mr. Hughes did not attempt to recreate Plaintiff’s accident, take measurements, or
quantify the physical forces involved. As for the two photographs Mr. Hughes attached to his report
showing the position of a rider on a bike with and without the Leatt Brace with the intent to show
that the Leatt Brace forces the wearer into an improper riding position, Mr. Hughes offers no
scientific, reproducible methodology for the creation of the staged photos.
Mr. Hughes formed his opinion on the causation of Plaintiff’s injury early in his conversation
with Plaintiff: “In my conversation with [Plaintiff], we started talking about his crash and I told him
exactly what had happened to him by the position his body was in when he went off the jump . . .
. He was shocked that I could explain what had happen[sic] without seeing the crash.” (ECF 59-2,
p. 1). An expert may not “start his analysis based upon the assumption that the product failed (the
very question that he was called upon to resolve).” Clark, 192 F.3d at 757.
Mr. Hughes has not identified any reliable methodology used to arrive at his conclusions that
the Leatt Brace was inadequately tested, that the Leatt Brace is defective or faulty, that the Leatt
Brace put Plaintiff in a dangerous position on the motorcycle, that the Leatt Brace caused Plaintiff
to be launched from his motorcycle, that the Leatt Brace prevented Plaintiff from being able to tuck
his head, that pressure from the Leatt Brace on the outside of Plaintiff’s spine fractured his
vertebrae, or that the “brace is in fault all the way with [Plaintiff’s] injury.” (ECF 59-2, p. 5).
Admissibility of Mr. Hughes’ Opinions
Because Mr. Hughes is not qualified to opine on the scientific topics set forth in his report
and because Mr. Hughes’ opinions are not founded on a reliable methodology, the Court excludes
Mr. Hughes’ opinions under Rule 702 and Daubert. The Court declines to undertake an analysis of
whether the report should also be excluded under Rule 37(c)(1).
Based on the foregoing, the Court hereby DENIES the Motion to Strike Declaration of Tyler
Kress, Ph.D. [DE 74], GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the Motion to Strike Affidavit of
Ryan Hughes [DE 85], GRANTS the Motion in Limine to Exclude Proposed Opinion Testimony
by Tyler Kress, Ph.D. [DE 55], and GRANTS the Motion in Limine to Exclude Proposed Opinion
Testimony by Ryan Hughes [DE 58].
SO ORDERED this 14th day of September, 2017.
s/ Paul R. Cherry
MAGISTRATE JUDGE PAUL R. CHERRY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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