Expert Witnesses Precluded in BMW Birth Defect Case

In a recent case, a child plaintiff sued BMW, claiming that his disabilities were caused by exposure to unleaded gasoline vapor from a defective fuel hose in his mother’s BMW when his mother was pregnant with him.

auto-1146303_960_720The Facts of the Case

In 1989, the plaintiff’s father bought his mother a new BMW 525i. The plaintiff’s mother was the only person who drove the car. In the spring of 1991, she noticed a smell of gasoline in the car at times. It caused her headaches, dizziness, and throat irritation. That summer, she became pregnant with the plaintiff. In November, a mechanic finally discovered a fuel leakage caused by a split fuel hose. The plaintiff was born in May 1992 with severe mental and physical disabilities. In 1994, BMW recalled all of their 525i vehicles made between 1989 and 1991, due to defects in the fuel hoses.

The plaintiff sued BMW in 2008, claiming that his disabilities were caused by exposure to unleaded gasoline vapor from a defective fuel hose in his mother’s BMW while he was in his mother’s womb. The plaintiff sued BMW in a personal injury action, claiming that the car’s defective fuel hose caused his injuries.

The court recently held that the plaintiff’s experts were precluded from testifying as to causation because they did not rely on generally accepted methodologies. The plaintiff’s experts had concluded that the plaintiff was exposed to enough gasoline vapor to have caused his injuries, based on the mother’s symptoms after smelling the gasoline. However, the experts did not point to any research showing that this was a reliable method to support that determination. Accordingly, the court held that the experts could not testify in the trial as to whether the plaintiff was exposed to a sufficient concentration of gasoline vapor to cause his injuries.

Causation Issues in Personal Injury Cases in Illinois

In Illinois, a plaintiff needs to prove that a defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff, breached that duty, and proximately caused an injury to the plaintiff as a result of that breach, from which damages arose. As demonstrated in this case, causation can be difficult to prove, and expert testimony does not always pass the court’s muster.

In Illinois State Court, Illinois Rules of Evidence 702 and 703 primarily govern the admissibility of expert testimony. In Illinois state courts, an expert must be qualified due to his or her knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education. If an expert plans to testify about a new or novel scientific methodology or principle, the expert has to show that the opinion is based on methodologies or principles that are generally accepted in his or her particular field.

Was Your Child Born with Disabilities?

If your child was born with disabilities, it is possible that he or she could have been exposed to harmful substances in utero. Babies still growing within their mother’s womb can be affected by a number of outside factors, including what the mother eats and drinks, what medications she takes, and even the air quality in her environment. Since issues of causation often arise, it is important to talk to an experienced attorney about your product liability case. The experienced Chicago injury lawyers at Moll Law Group can help you assess your case and advise you on how to proceed. Call us at 312-462-1700 or contact us through our online form to arrange a free initial consultation.

See More Posts:

Recent Case Discusses How Settlement Terms Can Bar All Future Claims, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, March 1, 2016.

Safer Technologies in Cars, But Not For Everyone, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, February 2, 2016.

Illinois Protects Police with Partial Immunity in Police Misconduct Cases, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, January 16, 2016.