Illinois Court Addresses Expert Testimony in Auto Defect Case


Is the plaintiff required to offer expert testimony in an Illinois automobile products liability design defect case? In a recent case from the United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, the plaintiffs asserted that expert testimony was not required to prove their claim that a 1993 Ford Explorer was defectively designed and overturned easily because the vehicle’s design was unstable. In that case, Show v. Ford Motor Company, Nos. 10–2428, 10–2637, the Illinois plaintiffs were injured when the Ford Explorer that they were traveling in overturned after being involved in a traffic collision that occurred at while the vehicle was traveling at low speeds.

The Court noted that there were two methods of proof available to plaintiff’s in a design defect case: 1) the consumer-expectations test and 2) the risk-utility or risk-benefit test. After analyzing relevant Illinois case law, the Court concluded that, contrary to the plaintiffs’ claims, in order to prevail on their design defect claim under the consumer-expectations approach, the plaintiffs were required to present expert evidence that the Ford Explorer failed to perform up to the safety expectations of an ordinary consumer.

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