White et al v. Maldonado et al
Judge Allison D. Burroughs: MEMORANDUM AND ORDER entered. Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment as to liability, [ECF No. 78 ], is GRANTED. Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment as to comparative negligence, [EC F No. 74 ], is DENIED. Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment as to punitive damages, [ECF No. 82 ], is DENIED. Plaintiff's motion to strike certain opinions of Defendants' expert Stephen Benanti, [ECF No. 76 ], is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. SO ORDERED.(McDonagh, Christina)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS
STEPHEN WHITE and DEBRA SARNO,
JOSEPH MALDONADO and M&M
Civil Action No. 17-cv-10769-ADB
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON CROSS MOTIONS FOR
PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND MOTION TO STRIKE CERTAIN OPINIONS
OF DEFENDANTS’ EXPERT
Plaintiff Stephen White filed this action in his capacity as the duly appointed
administrator for the estate of Debra Sarno. See [ECF No. 1-2 at 1]. Plaintiff alleges negligence,
gross negligence, and wrongful death, and seeks damages related to pain and suffering and
punitive damages against Defendant Joseph Maldonado in connection with a fatal motor vehicle
accident that involved Mr. Maldonado and Ms. Sarno. [Id. at 1, 4–8]. In addition, Plaintiff seeks
damages related to pain and suffering, punitive damages, and damages related to vicarious
liability from Mr. Maldonado’s former employer, M&M Produce, Inc. (“M&M Produce” and,
collectively with Mr. Maldonado, “Defendants”). [Id. at 1, 7–8]. Presently before the Court are
Plaintiff’s and Defendants’ respective motions for partial summary judgment. [ECF Nos. 74, 78,
82]. Also before the Court is Plaintiff’s motion to strike certain opinions of Defendants’ expert,
Stephen Benanti. [ECF No. 76]. For the reasons explained herein, Plaintiff’s motion for partial
summary judgment on the issue of comparative negligence, [ECF No. 74], is DENIED.
Plaintiff’s unopposed motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability, [ECF No.
78], is GRANTED. Defendants’ partial motion for summary judgment on the issue of punitive
damages, [ECF No. 82], is DENIED. Plaintiff’s motion to strike certain opinions of Defendants’
expert, Mr. Benanti, [ECF No. 76], is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
On April 4, 2017, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court. [ECF No. 1-2].
Defendants removed the matter from state court on May 2, 2017, on the basis of diversity
jurisdiction because Mr. Maldonado was a resident of Connecticut and M&M Produce had its
principal place of business in Connecticut. [ECF No. 1]. Defendants filed their answer with
affirmative defenses on May 9, 2017. [ECF No. 6]. Following discovery, Plaintiff filed a series
of motions on April 30, 2019, including a motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of
comparative negligence, [ECF No. 74], a motion to strike certain opinions of Defendants’ expert,
Mr. Benanti, [ECF No. 76], and a motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability,
[ECF No. 78]. Defendants filed their oppositions to two of these motions on June 6, 2019, [ECF
Nos. 89, 91], but did not oppose Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of
liability, see [ECF No. 86 at 1 n.1]. On May 8, 2019, Defendants filed a motion for partial
summary judgment on Plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages. [ECF No. 82]. Plaintiff filed his
opposition on May 22, 2019, [ECF Nos. 84, 85], and Defendants filed their reply on June 5,
2019, [ECF No. 88].
Except as otherwise noted, the following facts are not in dispute.
On the morning of April 21, 2014, Ms. Sarno was driving a taxicab northbound across the
Zakim Bridge when she pulled her vehicle to the right side of the road and came to a stop. [ECF
No. 75 ¶¶ 1–2; ECF No. 83 ¶¶ 1–2]. There is no breakdown lane on the Zakim Bridge. [ECF
No. 75 ¶ 4; ECF No. 89 ¶ 4]. 1 Ms. Sarno called the dispatcher at Malden Cab and spoke with
Sue Ellen Hyde, telling her that the vehicle had a flat tire. [ECF No. 75 ¶¶ 2–3; ECF No. 89
¶ 1]. 2 Ms. Hyde called a tow truck to assist her. [ECF No. 75 ¶ 3; ECF No. 83 ¶ 18]. Ms. Sarno
waited in her vehicle for assistance. See [ECF No. 75 ¶ 6; ECF No. 83 ¶ 14]. Approximately
twenty-four vehicles maneuvered past Ms. Sarno’s taxicab while she was stopped. [ECF No. 85
¶ 18; ECF No. 83 ¶ 20].
Mr. Maldonado was also traveling northbound on the Zakim Bridge that morning, driving
a truck in the course of his employment with Defendant M&M Produce. [ECF No. 75 ¶ 5; ECF
No. 89 ¶ 5]. Mr. Maldonado’s truck struck the taxicab in which Ms. Sarno was sitting from the
rear, causing it to burst into flames. [ECF No. 75 ¶ 6; ECF No. 89 ¶ 6]. Ms. Sarno died as a
result of the collision. [ECF No. 75 ¶ 7; ECF No. 89 ¶ 7].
Summary judgment is appropriate where the movant demonstrates that “there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). “A fact is material if its resolution might affect the outcome of the
case under the controlling law.” Cochran v. Quest Software, Inc., 328 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 2003).
“A genuine issue exists as to such a fact if there is evidence from which a reasonable trier could
decide the fact either way.” Id. When reviewing the record, the court “must take the evidence in
the light most flattering to the party opposing summary judgment, indulging all reasonable
Defendants state that there is a four-foot wide shoulder on the right side of the road. [ECF No.
89 ¶ 4]. Plaintiff has neither disputed nor admitted this statement.
Though it is undisputed that Ms. Sarno told Ms. Hyde that the taxicab had sustained a flat tire,
the parties dispute whether the vehicle had, in fact, sustained a flat tire. [ECF No. 89 ¶ 1].
inferences in that party’s favor.” Id. The First Circuit has noted that this standard “is favorable
to the nonmoving party, but it does not give him a free pass to trial.” Hannon v. Beard, 645 F.3d
45, 48 (1st Cir. 2011). “The factual conflicts upon which he relies must be both genuine and
material,” Gomez v. Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., 670 F.3d 395, 397 (1st Cir. 2012), and the
court may discount “conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, and unsupported
speculation,” Cochran, 328 F.3d at 6 (quoting Medina-Muñoz v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 896
F.2d 5, 8 (1st Cir. 1990)).
“To succeed in showing that there is no genuine dispute of material fact,” the moving
party must point to “specific evidence in the record that would be admissible at trial.” OcasioHernandez v. Fortuño-Burset, 777 F.3d 1, 4 (1st Cir. 2015). “That is, it must ‘affirmatively
produce evidence that negates an essential element of the non-moving party’s claim,’ or, using
‘evidentiary materials already on file . . . demonstrate that the non-moving party will be unable
to carry its burden of persuasion at trial.’” Id. at 4–5 (quoting Carmona v. Toledo, 215 F.3d 124,
132 (1st Cir. 2000)). “One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment rule is to isolate
and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses . . . .” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323–24 (1986). Once the movant takes the position that the record fails to make out any
trial-worthy question of material fact, “it is the burden of the nonmoving party to proffer facts
sufficient to rebut the movant’s assertions.” Nansamba v. No. Shore Med. Ctr., Inc., 727 F.3d
33, 40 (1st Cir. 2013).
Plaintiff seeks summary judgment on Defendants’ affirmative defense of comparative
negligence, claiming that Defendants have failed to provide sufficient evidence of negligence on
the part of Ms. Sarno. [ECF No. 75 at 7]. In response, Defendants argue that there are issues of
material fact regarding whether Ms. Sarno exercised reasonable care when faced with car trouble
on the Zakim Bridge or whether she violated a Massachusetts regulation regarding highway
safety. [ECF No. 89 at 1].
Whether Ms. Sarno Exercised Reasonable Care
Under Massachusetts law, which provides the basis for Defendants’ comparative
negligence defense, “[t]he burden of alleging and proving negligence which serves to diminish a
plaintiff’s damages or bar recovery under this section shall be upon the person who seeks to
establish such negligence, and the plaintiff shall be presumed to have been in the exercise of due
care.” Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, § 85. Defendants therefore bear the burden of proving that Ms.
Sarno did not exercise reasonable care and that this alleged lapse resulted, at least in part, in her
injuries. See id.
“The question of comparative negligence, like that of breach of duty, is primarily for the
factfinder.” Marquez v. Home Depot USA, Inc., 154 F. Supp. 2d 152, 156 (D. Mass. 2001)
(citing Everett v. Bucky Warren, Inc., 380 N.E.2d 653 (Mass. 1978)). The parties dispute
several facts that are relevant to Defendants’ burden on the issue of comparative negligence. For
example, there are disputed factual issues as to the condition of Ms. Sarno’s vehicle. Plaintiff
alleges that Ms. Sarno’s vehicle had a flat tire, while Defendants dispute this. [ECF No. 75 at 2;
ECF No. 89 at 2]. Ms. Sarno made a call to her dispatcher, Ms. Hyde, to report a flat tire, [ECF
No. 75 at 2], but Defendants state that Ms. Hyde’s testimony regarding Ms. Sarno’s
representations about the condition of the vehicle are hearsay, and note that there is no evidence
of the condition of her vehicle, [ECF No. 89 at 2]. 3 The condition of the vehicle’s tires and the
resulting drivability of the car is relevant to the parties’ dispute as to whether Ms. Sarno could
have driven to a place of safety, or whether she could have pulled the vehicle closer to the
shoulder of the highway. [ECF No. 75 at 3–4; ECF No. 89 at 4–5]. The parties also dispute
whether Ms. Sarno should have exited the vehicle while waiting for assistance. [ECF No. 75 at
4–6; ECF No. 89 at 10–11]. Relatedly, the parties dispute whether, if she had moved the vehicle
or her person to a position of safety, the accident could have been avoided or its severity
minimized. [ECF No. 75 at 5–6; ECF No. 89 at 4–5].
Alleged Violation of a Statute or Regulation
Defendants also allege that Ms. Sarno violated a Massachusetts highway regulation.
[ECF No. 89 at 7]. The Massachusetts statute governing comparative negligence addresses the
issue of liability when a plaintiff has violated such a regulation:
The violation of a criminal statute, ordinance or regulation by a plaintiff which
contributed to said injury, death or damage, shall be considered as evidence of
negligence of that plaintiff, but the violation of said statute, ordinance or regulation
shall not as a matter of law and for that reason alone, serve to bar a plaintiff from
Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, § 85. Defendants claim that Ms. Sarno violated the following
Emergency Repair. No person shall park a vehicle in any highway except in the
right-hand lane or shoulder of the highway for the purpose of changing a tire
or making emergency repairs unless such vehicle is so damaged or disabled that
it cannot be moved under its own power.
720 Mass. Code Regs. 9.03(5) (emphasis added); see [ECF No. 89 at 7–10].
The regulation defines “parking” as follows:
A Massachusetts State Police Collision Reconstruction Report notes that all four tires of Ms.
Sarno’s vehicle were burned in the accident and that “what type of tire failure existed” was
unknown. [ECF No. 83-4 at 12, 17].
The stopping or standing of a vehicle whether occupied or not, otherwise than
temporarily, except that a vehicle shall not be deemed parked when stopped or
standing for the purpose of and while actually engaged in loading or unloading or
in obedience to an officer or traffic control signs or signals, or while making
emergency repairs or, if disabled, while arrangements are being made to move
720 Mass. Code Regs. 9.01 (emphasis added). The Court finds that, as an initial matter, whether
Ms. Sarno was making the repairs herself, or waiting for a tow truck to assist her is irrelevant.
The regulation does not specify who must make the relevant repairs in order to fall within the
exception: the driver, a passenger, or a third party. See 720 Mass. Code Regs. 9.03(5), 9.01. At
issue is whether Ms. Sarno’s vehicle had a flat tire that required repair, was disabled such that it
could not be moved, or required other emergency repairs such that parking in the right-hand lane
of the Zakim Bridge fit within the exception of Sections 9.03(5) and 9.01.
The condition of Ms. Sarno’s vehicle is a question of material fact which remains in
dispute and must be left to a jury to decide. See Cochran, 328 F.3d at 6 (“A genuine issue exists
as to such a fact if there is evidence from which a reasonable trier could decide the fact either
way.”); Gomez, 670 F.3d at 397 (holding that factual conflicts must be genuine and material).
Where, as here, the parties dispute facts that are essential to the claimed defense, summary
judgment is not appropriate. See Cochran, 328 F.3d at 6. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s motion for
summary judgment on the issue of comparative negligence, [ECF No. 74], is DENIED.
Defendants seek summary judgment on Plaintiff’s request for punitive damages in
connection with Plaintiff’s wrongful death claim. [ECF Nos. 82, 83]. Individuals found to have
violated the Massachusetts wrongful death statute are liable for “punitive damages in an amount
of not less than five thousand dollars in such case as the decedent’s death was caused by the
malicious, willful, wanton or reckless conduct of the defendant or by the gross negligence of the
defendant . . .” Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 229, § 2. Defendants argue that Plaintiff cannot prove Mr.
Maldonado’s conduct was grossly negligent, willful, wanton, or reckless. [ECF No. 83 at 1]. In
response, Plaintiff asserts that there is a question of material fact as to whether Mr. Maldonado
failed to avoid hitting Ms. Sarno’s vehicle because he was distracted or did not perceive her car
in time, which bears on the characterization of his conduct. [ECF No. 85 at 2, 6–8].
“In the context of automobile accidents, while there is no hard and fast rule, the three
elements usually taken into consideration [in determining gross negligence] are the speed of the
vehicle, the circumstances and conditions at the site of the accident, and the length of any
inattentiveness.” Peck v. Garfield, 862 F.2d 1, 5–6 (1st Cir. 1988). The parties dispute material
facts that would support consideration of these factors, such as the speed at which Mr.
Maldonado was traveling and the speed limit in place at the location of the accident. [ECF No.
83 at 13–14; ECF No. 85 at 6].
For example, both parties agree that twenty-four vehicles saw and avoided Ms. Sarno’s
car before Mr. Maldonado hit it, though the parties dispute the significance of this fact. [ECF
No. 83 at 5; ECF No. 85 at 4]. Plaintiff alleges that because twenty-four other vehicles had been
able to avoid striking Ms. Sarno’s car in the minutes leading up to the accident, Mr. Maldonado
was either traveling too fast or was distracted. [ECF No. 85 at 8]. The First Circuit has held that
“only momentary inattentiveness may be gross negligence in a place of great danger or while
traveling at high speed.” Peck, 862 F.2d at 5–6 (holding that gross negligence was an
appropriate question for the jury where there was evidence that defendant was travelling at an
excessive speed and was distracted for “at least several seconds”).
These disputed facts are material to Plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages and therefore
summary judgment on this issue is inappropriate. See Cochran, 328 F.3d at 6 (“A fact is material
if its resolution might affect the outcome of the case under the controlling law.”). Accordingly,
Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the issue of punitive damages [ECF No. 82] is
Plaintiff has moved for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability, based on the
fact that Mr. Maldonado was convicted on charges of motor vehicle homicide by negligent
operation. [ECF No. 79 at 2]. His conviction was pursuant to a Massachusetts statute, which
states that “whoever operates a motor vehicle negligently so that the lives or safety of the public
might be endangered and by any such operation causes the death of another person, shall be
guilty of homicide by a motor vehicle . . . .” Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 90, § 24G(b). Mr.
Maldonado’s conviction was affirmed by the Massachusetts Appeals Court on January 31, 2019.
Commonwealth v. Maldonado, 122 N.E.3d 1102 (Mass. App. Ct. 2019). The Supreme Judicial
Court denied further appellate review on May 9, 2019. Commonwealth v. Maldonado, 123
N.E.3d 201 (Mass. 2019).
A party in a civil action may invoke collateral estoppel to preclude a criminal defendant
from relitigating an issue that was decided in his criminal prosecution. Fid. Mgmt. & Research
Co. v. Ostrander, 662 N.E.2d 699, 703 (Mass. 1996) (citing Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Niziolek,
481 N.E.2d 1356 (1985)). “To establish guilt under the motor vehicle homicide by negligent
operation statute, the Commonwealth must prove ‘(1) operation of a motor vehicle, (2) upon a
public way, (3) recklessly or negligently so as to endanger human life or safety, (4) thereby
causing the death of a person.’” Maldonado, 122 N.E.3d 1102 (quoting Commonwealth v.
Angelo Todesca Corp., 842 N.E.2d 930 (Mass. 2006)). Therefore, Mr. Maldonado’s conviction
establishes negligence and causation. Id. (“In these circumstances, the jury could properly
conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, . . . that the defendant was negligent.” (internal citation
and quotation marks omitted)); see Fid. Mgmt. & Research Co., 662 N.E.2d at 703.
Defendants did not oppose Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment on liability
and stated in a May 30, 2019, filing that they had informed Plaintiff of their intention not to
oppose the motion. [ECF No. 86 at 1 n.1]. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary
judgment as to Defendants’ liability, [ECF No. 78], is GRANTED. 4
Expert Opinion of Stephen Benanti
Plaintiff seeks to exclude Defendants’ expert, Stephen Benanti, from relying on his use of
a computer program called Interactive Driver Response Research (“I.DRR”) to formulate his
opinion as to whether the accident was avoidable. [ECF No. 77 at 7]. Plaintiff asserts that Mr.
Benanti was “unable to cite any authority or publication that has tested or validated this
program” and was also unable “to explain his choices of various data points he input into the
program or the method by which the program arrived at the output data.” [Id. at 2]. Defendants
argue first that Mr. Benanti only used I.DRR to corroborate, not formulate, his opinion as to
whether the accident was avoidable and, second, that expert opinions based on I.DRR results
have been admitted in other courts. [ECF No. 91 at 2–3].
Federal Rule of Evidence 702 provides that a person who is qualified by knowledge,
skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion 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;
Both parties refer to Plaintiff’s motion as relating to the liability of both Defendants. [ECF No.
79 at 3 (asking the court to find that Mr. Maldonado’s criminal conviction “establish[es] the
liability of the defendants, Joseph Maldonado and M&M Produce”); ECF No. 86 at 1 n.1 (stating
that Defendants “do not intend to file an opposition to the motion for partial summary judgment
on the issue of the defendants’ liability”). The Court therefore assumes the parties intended to
concede both Mr. Maldonado’s negligence (Count I) and M&M Produce’s vicarious liability
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. The Rule “assign[s] to the trial judge the task of ensuring that an expert’s
testimony both rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand.” Daubert v.
Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 597 (1993); see Seahorse Marine Supplies, Inc. v. P.R.
Sun Oil Co., 295 F.3d 68, 80 (1st Cir. 2002) (“[T]he district court must perform a gatekeeping
function by preliminarily assessing ‘whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the
testimony is scientifically valid and whether that reasoning or methodology properly can be
applied to the facts in issue.’” (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592–93)).
Plaintiff’s contentions are rooted in Rule 702(c) and (d), which require that the expert’s
opinion be the product of reliable principles and methods that the expert reliably applied to the
facts of the case. See [ECF No. 77]; Fed. R. Evid. 702(c)–(d). The Supreme Court has provided
a number of factors a court may consider when engaging in a reliability analysis under Daubert:
1) whether the scientific theory or technique can be (and has been) tested;
2) whether it has been subjected to peer review and publication;
3) whether it has a known rate of error;
4) whether there are standards controlling its application or operation; and
5) whether it is generally accepted in the relevant scientific community.
Carrozza v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc., 391 F. Supp. 3d 136, 144 (D. Mass. 2019) (citing Daubert, 509
U.S. at 593–94). The burden of proof as to the reliability of an expert’s testimony falls on the
party introducing the testimony. Bricklayers & Trowel Trades Int’l Pension Fund v. Credit
Suisse Sec. (USA) LLC, 752 F.3d 82, 96 (1st Cir. 2014).
Mr. Benanti did not reference the I.DRR software in his May 25, 2018, expert report,
[ECF No. 83-2], or in his June 10, 2018, rebuttal report, [ECF No. 83-5]. He first discussed his
use of the program during his September 19, 2018, deposition, when he indicated that he took a
weeklong course on the software in late June 2018, [ECF no. 83-6 at 17], after he had submitted
his rebuttal report. On September 26, 2018, Mr. Benanti submitted an addendum to his report
that included the I.DRR results. [ECF No. 83-7]. He testified regarding that addendum at a
second deposition on November 26, 2018, [ECF No. 83-6 at 35].
The only discussion or explanation of the software in his addendum is contained within
one paragraph: “Dr. Jeffrey Muttart of Crash Safety Solutions has designed a software program
that can be used to determine a variety of variables dealing with Human Factors in motor vehicle
collisions based on research studies. The program is call[ed] Interactive Driver Response
Research (I.DRR).” [ECF No. 83-7 at 6]. During his November 2018 deposition, Mr. Benanti
was unable to describe how the program arrived at the results he provided in his addendum,
beyond reciting that the software was designed by using 6,500 studies relating to “motor vehicle
collisions and avoidance.” [ECF No. 83-6 at 60].
Mr. Benanti further testified that he was unaware of what types of calculations the
program used, or what percentage of the 6,500 studies used to design the program were specific
to the type of accident at issue in this case. See, e.g., [id. at 57 (“Q: What are the mathematical
calculations? A: I don’t know.”). When asked about the variables he selected within the
program, Mr. Benanti indicated that he used several default variables but was unable to explain
why he chose those variables or why they were appropriate, beyond noting that they were the
program’s defaults. [Id. at 63–66]. 5 Finally, Mr. Benanti was likewise unable to identify any
published literature regarding the accuracy or reliability of the program. [Id. at 59].
For example, Mr. Benanti used .006 as a variable in making his closing distance calculation
using a formula he learned in the I.DRR course, but he was unable to explain why this variable
was appropriate other than to state that he “was told [it] was the right one to use.” [ECF No. 836 at 72; ECF No. 83-7 at 7]. Mr. Benanti relied upon the calculation he achieved using this
variable in determining that Mr. Maldonado “would have recognized that he was closing on the
Sarno Ford when he was approximately 278 feet from impact.” [ECF No. 83-7 at 7, 11].
Defendants cite to several cases outside of the First Circuit to argue that the I.DRR
program has been accepted by other courts. [ECF No. 91 at 5–7]. Those cases, however, are
distinct. In Kozlov v. Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc., the Eighth Circuit affirmed a lower
court’s decision to allow expert testimony that combined I.DRR analysis as well as the expert’s
independent calculations where, unlike here, the expert was able to “explain the scientific
theory behind the software program.” Kozlov v. Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc., 818 F.3d
380, 394 (8th Cir. 2016). In Cantu v. United States, the court entered its findings after a bench
trial, noting that it found the Government’s expert more persuasive. Cantu v. United States, No.
14-00219, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 104056 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 7, 2015). The Government’s expert
used I.DRR and “independently validated [those results] by separate calculations, as well as
physical evidence from  the accident scene.” Cantu, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 104056, at *37. 6
In Doyle v. Steinmann, the Massachusetts Superior Court allowed an expert to testify
where that expert had used, in part, I.DRR to identify a driver’s perception-response time. Order
on Mot. in Lim., Doyle v. Steinmann, No. 1684CV02509 (Mass. Super. Ct. Apr. 18, 2018).
There, the expert combined his use of the I.DRR results with his own calculations to determine
that the I.DRR results (an estimated 2.7 seconds response time) was consistent with his own
results (between 2.5 to 3.5 seconds response time). Defendant’s Expert Report, Doyle v.
Steinmann, 2013 WL 12353956 (Mass. Super. Ct. Nov. 17, 2013) (No. 1684CV02509).
Unlike the cases cited above, Mr. Benanti did not use the I.DRR program to validate his
calculations but used the program to recalculate and revise his initial calculations. In his first
The court in Cantu also noted that “[t]he IDRR program incorporates decades of empirical,
real-life research regarding drivers and their response times to various hazards and is widely
accepted in the accident reconstruction community.” Cantu, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 104056, at
*28. It is unclear to the Court whether the judge in Cantu based this finding on evidence
presented by the Government’s expert through a report, deposition testimony, or testimony
provided during the bench trial.
report from May 2018, Mr. Benanti estimated that Mr. Maldonado “had less than 6 seconds and
approximately 380 feet to perceive, react, and avoid the Sarno Ford . . . .” [ECF No. 83-2 at 14].
In his addendum, in which he relied upon the I.DRR program, Mr. Benanti revised this estimate
to 2.4 seconds of perception and reaction time and “approximately 354 feet to perceive, react,
and stop.” [ECF No. 83-7 at 11]. He used the 2.4 seconds provided by the I.DRR program to
arrive at his calculation of 354 feet. [Id. at 4]. Rather than confirming his results with the I.DRR
program as the experts in Kozlov, Cantu, and Doyle, Mr. Benanti revised his calculations
entirely based on the results he obtained with the I.DRR program, despite not understanding how
the program worked.
In assessing the Daubert factors for reliability—including whether the scientific theory or
technique behind the I.DRR program can be (and has been) tested, whether the program has a
known rate of error, and whether there are standards controlling its application or operation—the
Court finds that Defendants have not established the reliability of the I.DRR program or Mr.
Benanti’s use of that program as applied to the facts in this case. Other than inapposite
references to cases in other districts in which courts allowed testimony from experts who used
the I.DRR program, Defendants have provided no other basis for the Court to assess the
reliability of the program or Mr. Benanti’s use of it. Plaintiff’s motion to strike, [ECF No. 76] is
therefore GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. The Court strikes those of Mr. Benanti’s
opinions or calculations that are based upon his use of the I.DRR program.
For the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment as to
liability, [ECF No. 78], is GRANTED. Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment as to
comparative negligence, [ECF No. 74], is DENIED. Defendants’ motion for partial summary
judgment as to punitive damages, [ECF No. 82], is DENIED. Plaintiff’s motion to strike certain
opinions of Defendants’ expert Stephen Benanti, [ECF No. 76], is GRANTED in part and
DENIED in part.
January 7, 2020
/s/ Allison D. Burroughs
ALLISON D. BURROUGHS
U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
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