Sometimes when you read a decision, you can almost sense the disappointment of a party, who was convinced that they were in the right, only to have their hopes dashed when first a trial court, and then an appellate court, inform them that their case has been dismissed because although they did have an expert that supported their claim, their expert was not appropriately qualified in the relevant discipline. (For more on this issue, see "The Most Important Issue Before You Start a NY Products Liability Case").

And this was precisely the case in Rinaldi v. EvenFlo Co., Inc. In this case, the infant plaintiff sustained personal injuries when she fell from the soft fabric baby carrier that was manufacted by the defendant, EvenFlo, Inc. According to the plaintiff's mother, the baby fell when one of the buckles on the harness opened without warning. Not suprisingly, a post-accident inspection of the carrier by defendants' designated expert revealed no manufacturing or design defects, leading to the conclusion that the accident was caused by the plaintiff's mother's failure to follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Conversely, the plaintiff' put forth an accident reconstruction, biomechanics and mechanical engineering expert, as well as a board-certified human factors psychologist as her second expert, who opined that the baby carrier was in fact defectively designed.

Although "battles of the experts" are generally referred to the trier of facts for determination, the appellate court agreed that the lower court was correct in dismissing the case, and here's why:

"[N]either expert presented evidence that he had any practical experience with, or personal knowledge of, baby carriers such as the one at issue here, and neither expert demonstrated such personal knowledge or experience with baby carrier design or manufacture in general. Accordingly, the affidavits submitted by the plaintiff were insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact (see O'Boy v Motor Coach Indus., Inc., 39 AD3d 512, 513-514)."
Jonathan Cooper
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Non-Compete, Trade Secret and School Negligence Lawyer
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