Donald N. Timm and Mary K. Timm, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
Goodyear Dunlop Tires North America, Ltd., an Ohio-based Corporation, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
April 5, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Indiana, Hammond Division. No. 2:14-cv-232 -
Philip P. Simon, Judge.
Flaum, Kanne, and Scudder, Circuit Judges.
SCUDDER, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
and Mary Timm sustained serious injuries in a horrific
motorcycle accident. Believing defects with the motorcycle
and its rear tire caused the accident-and that their injuries
were especially severe because of a defect with their
helmets-the Timms brought a products liability action under
Indiana law against numerous defendants involved in the sale
and manufacture of the motorcycle, its rear tire, and the
helmets they wore at the time of the accident. Concluding
that the Timms failed to present admissible expert testimony
to support their claims, the district court entered summary
judgment for the defendants. We affirm.
10, 2013, Donald and Mary Timm set off on a cross-country
trip on their Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic. The Timms
intended to drive from their home in Dyer, Indiana to Salt
Lake City, Utah. While crossing Nebraska, the couple suffered
a catastrophic accident when the motorcycle's rear tire
sustained a puncture and rapidly deflated, leading Donald to
lose control of the motorcycle and crash into a concrete
median barrier. Mary flew off the motorcycle while Donald
remained attached to the bike as it slid along the highway.
Though both riders were wearing helmets, each sustained
serious head injuries. In addition to suffering a traumatic
brain injury, Donald sustained facial fractures and a
cervical spine injury.
months later, the Timms received notice that the helmets they
were wearing at the time of the accident-Ultra Low Profile
Outlaw Motorcycle Half Helmets-were recalled. The Timms
purchased the helmets two years earlier. Mary purchased her
helmet through a website called LeatherUp.com (owned by
Nanal, Inc.). Donald purchased his helmet through a different
internet retailer, which is not a party to this suit. A
company named Tegol imported and distributed both helmets. In
its recall notice, Tegol explained that the Outlaw helmets
failed to conform to certain Department of Transportation
standards and warned that riders "may not be adequately
protected in the event of a crash."
Timms then brought a products liability action against Tegol,
Nanal, and fourteen other corporate and individual defendants
involved in the manufacture, distribution, and sale of Outlaw
helmets (which we will collectively call the helmet
defendants). Advancing claims under the Indiana Products
Liability Act, the Timms alleged that their injuries would
have been less severe had their helmets complied with federal
safety standards and that the helmet defendants were
negligent in their recall efforts. The Timms also asserted
claims against Harley-Davidson, the motorcycle manufacturer,
and Goodyear Dunlop (now known as Sumitomo Rubber USA), the
tire manufacturer, contending that defects in the motorcycle
and rear tire caused the accident.
with their helmets, the Timms pressed several claims,
including design defect and manufacturing defect. To show
that the helmets enhanced their injuries, the Timms
emphasized the recall as well as the sheer severity of the
injuries they sustained in the accident. But they did not
present any expert testimony to show that, because of a
defect with their helmets, their injuries were worse than
they otherwise would have experienced in such a severe
motorcycle crash. This omission, the district court
concluded, was fatal to their claims because "a lay
juror would not be able to distinguish between the injuries
caused by the motorcycle accident and the enhanced injuries
caused by the alleged defect in the helmets without engaging
conclusion, the district court reasoned, found support in the
fact that the helmet defendants offered their own medical
expert, who opined that the Timms' injuries were the type
he would expect following such a serious motorcycle accident,
even if they had been wearing helmets that complied with all
safety standards. The court accordingly entered summary
judgment in favor of the helmet defendants on the Timms'
manufacturing and design defect claims. The court also
entered judgment for the defendants on the Timms' claims
alleging negligent recall and failure to comply with federal
safety standards, concluding that the Indiana Products
Liability Act permits neither claim.
to the allegations against Harley-Davidson and Goodyear, the
Timms asserted that the motorcycle's rear tire (a Dunlop
D4O2 tire) was defective and unreasonably dangerous because,
following a puncture, it allowed for both excessive air
leakage and the tire to unseat-or come free-from its rim.
These defects, they maintained, caused Mr. Timm to lose
control of the motorcycle and crash. The Timms further
alleged that the motorcycle itself was defectively designed
because it lacked a tire pressure monitoring system, which
would have alerted Donald to the sudden loss of air in the
tire before he lost control. To support these claims, the
Timms proposed two experts: William Woehrle, a tire
specialist, and Dr. Daniel Lee, an accident
reconstructionist. In his report, Woehrle opined on how and
when the tire became unseated from the rim and the need for a
tire pressure monitoring system. Dr. Lee likewise sought to
testify about the ultimate cause of the accident and to share
his opinion that every motorcycle should be equipped with a
tire pressure monitoring system.
and Goodyear filed motions to exclude Woehrle's and
Lee's opinions, arguing they lacked the reliability
required by Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert v.
Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993).
Following a hearing, the district court agreed. The court
concluded that Woehrle's opinion that manufacturing
defects caused the tire to unseat from the rim upon being
punctured "appear[ed] to be based on nothing more than
his subjective belief and unsupported speculation/' and
thus "fail[ed] to adhere to any of the Daubert
guideposts." The court also excluded Woehrle's
opinion on the tire pressure monitoring system, reasoning
that while Woehrle had expertise with respect to tires, he
lacked qualifications related to motorcycles more generally.
The district court judge also determined that Woehrle's
opinions failed to comport with Rule 702 "because they
[were] not based on scientifically valid methodologies."
court similarly excluded Dr. Lee's testimony, finding
that he lacked tire-related qualifications, and, in any
event, his methodology with respect to both the tire defects
and the tire pressure ...