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Shawgo v. General Motors Corp.

August 9, 2007

RICOLE R. SHAWGO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Murphy, Chief District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter is before the Court on a motion to bar Plaintiff's expert (Doc. 59) and a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 57) filed by Defendant, General Motors Corporation (hereinafter "GM"). After conducting an evidentiary hearing on July 30, 2007, the Court took the motions under advisement. For the reasons set forth below, the Court bars the testimony of Plaintiff's expert, Anil Khadilkar, Ph.D., and grants summary judgment to GM.

BACKGROUND

This personal injury lawsuit arises out of a motor vehicle accident which occurred in rural Perry County, Illinois, on September 28, 2003. Plaintiff, Ricole Shawgo, was ejected from her 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier and sustained serious injuries. In this lawsuit, she alleges that her vehicle was manufactured by GM with a defective and unreasonably dangerous seat belt. Specifically, Shawgo alleges that the vehicle's seat belt was designed so that it would not retain a passenger in the vehicle upon collision and would (and in fact did) disengage during a collision. Shawgo claims that she was wearing her seat belt at the time of the accident; GM's experts think otherwise. Nonetheless, it is undisputed that Shawgo was not restrained by the seat belt when she was found by emergency personnel.

Shawgo asserts claims based on negligence, breach of implied warranty, breach of express warranty, and strict products liability.*fn1

Because testing on the seat belt in the GM vehicle at issue in this case was not feasible, Shawgo's counsel conceded at the July 30th hearing that Shawgo will pursue only a theory of a design defect, not a manufacturing defect, at trial. To support these claims, Shawgo's counsel intends to call Dr. Anil V. Khadilkar to opine on the alleged defective seat belt in the GM vehicle driven by Shawgo.

Dr. Khadilkar is an automotive engineer with an impressive curriculum vitae peppered with degrees, professional affiliations, employment experience, and publications (see Doc. 59-3). His experience and education are not at issue. Instead, GM moves to bar Dr. Khadilkar's testimony for the simple reason that his report and testimony are unreliable and his opinions are not generally accepted.

In his report prepared for this case, Dr. Khadilkar concludes:

1. The subject vehicle was driven by Ricole Shawgo. She was wearing the 3-point safety restraint system available in the vehicle at her seating position at the time of the subject crash.

2. The rollover crash that the subject Cavalier underwent was a relatively low-energy, low-force, low roof crush event.

3. The occupant compartment integrity and the occupant safety zone stayed relatively undisturbed in the subject rollover.

4. The only exception to the relatively maintained occupant compartment integrity was the braking [sic] out of the left front door glass which opened up a portal for Ricole's ejection path.

5. The rollover crash of the subject vehicle resulted in serious injuries to Ricole Shawgo. Her injuries were as a result of her getting ejected from the vehicle and they occurred outside the vehicle.

6. The safety restraint system for the driver seating position underwent unwanted unlatching during the crash sequence, most likely before the rolling sequence.

7. The unlatching most likely occurred as a result of the latch plate unlatching since it was partially latched; or as a result of forceful contact between Ricole's body or some object in the vehicle and the release button of her safety restraint buckle and inadvertently releasing the latch.

8. The subject Cavalier, [sic] Ricole was riding in underwent a complex interaction of off-road travel, sliding, pitching, rolling and ...


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