United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division
DUSTIN REINARD, Individually and as injured Parent of B.R. and K.R., and MISTY REINARD, Plaintiffs,
CROWN EQUIPMENT CORP., Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING THE PLAINTIFFS'
MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL
W. BENNETT, U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
case arises from a collision at a Target warehouse between a
stand-up forklift operated by Dustin Reinard and a steel
pole. Mr. Reinard suffered serious injuries to his left leg
resulting in its amputation. At trial, Mr. Reinard and his
wife, Misty Reinard, sought damages for Mr. Reinard's
injury, loss of spousal consortium, and loss of parental
consortium on a design defect claim against Crown Equipment
Corporation, the manufacturer and seller of the forklift. The
key dispute at trial was whether the forklift that Mr.
Reinard was operating should have had a door to prevent his
foot from leaving the operator's compartment. Crown
contended that a door would actually increase the potential
for serious injuries in other accidents, such as off-dock or
tipover accidents. Evidence on this key dispute included
results of testing, with videos, for stand-up rider forklifts
using anthropomorphic test devices (ATDs, better known as
crash test dummies) and Mathematical Dynamic Modeling
(MADYMO), which uses mathematical models to show the effect
of forces on the human body during accidents. After eight
days of evidence and argument, the jury returned a defense
verdict on the ninth day of trial.
was far and away the best tried jury trial in my twenty-four
years as a district court judge trying cases spanning six
federal districts from the Middle District of Florida to the
District of the Northern Mariana Islands. Counsel were
exceptionally well prepared, unfailingly civil and
professional, and unsurpassed trial lawyers in terms of
skill, expertise, and cooperation with each other and me.
This was a very close case and simply could not have been
case is now before me on the plaintiffs' August 27, 2018,
Motion For New Trial, based on their contention that
admission of the ATD/MADYMO evidence was erroneous and
harmful. On a new trial motion pursuant to Rule 59
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
“[T]he key question [is] whether a new trial is
necessary to prevent a miscarriage of justice.”
Hallmark Cards, Inc. v. Murley, 703 F.3d 456, 462
(8th Cir. 2013). We will not disturb the jury's verdict
unless the appellants show “the district court clearly
abused its discretion by admitting the evidence” and
“the error[s] prejudicially influenced the outcome of
the trial.” Regions Bank v. BMW N. Am., Inc.,
406 F.3d 978, 980 (8th Cir. 2005); see also Fed. R.
Civ. P. 61 (explaining “no error in admitting or
excluding evidence ... is ground for granting a new trial,
for setting aside a verdict, or for vacating, modifying, or
otherwise disturbing a judgment or order” unless the
error “affect[s] any party's substantial
Coterel v. Dorel Juvenile Grp., Inc., 827 F.3d 804,
807 (8th Cir. 2016).
if I improperly admitted the ATD/MADYMO evidence, as the
Reinards argue in their Motion For New Trial, I agree that
the admission of this evidence was prejudicial and entitles
the Reinards to a new trial. I am virtually certain that this
evidence substantially affected the jury's deliberations
and verdict. Indeed, I would be shocked if it did not. The
ATD/MADYMO evidence was the foundation of Crown's
defense. That evidence was also the most critical in the
case, because many of Crown's trial witnesses relied on.
I agonized over the issue of the admissibility of this
evidence in Reinard's Motion In Limine and Crown's
resistance. I read the various cases cited by the parties on
both sides of the issue and ultimately admitted this
evidence. I found it to be a very close call. Perhaps that
was error-perhaps not. In the hindsight that a post-trial
review allows, perhaps the better course would have been to
allow Crown's witnesses to testify about Crown's
reliance on this testing, but not to allow the videos of the
testing to be shown to the jurors. I don't recall either
party suggesting this resolution, nor did I think of it. Such
an approach might have been a better balance of the central
concerns of Rule 403 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which
requires a balancing of the probative value of evidence
against its potential for unfair prejudice and other
important trial concerns. The videos were powerful; I urge
the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, should this case be
appealed, to review them very carefully. Nevertheless, for
the reasons stated in the Motion In Limine ruling, I believe
I properly admitted the ATD/MADYMO evidence-but I am
certainly not free from doubt.
the plaintiffs' August 27, 2018, Motion For New Trial
(docket no. 110) is denied.
IS SO ORDERED.
 Although the plaintiffs requested oral
arguments on their Motion For New Trial, I find that the
parties' written and oral arguments concerning the
ATD/MADYMO evidence, in motions in limine, during trial, and
in relation to the Motion For New Trial, comprehensively
address the issues presented. ...