The Expert: Dr. Lisa Gavin, a pathologist in Nevada, testifies for the plaintiff and describes her conclusions on the fatal injuries the cyclist suffered.
Dr. Lisa Gavin, a board certified forensic pathologist, testifies for the plaintiffs in Katayoun Barin v. Motor Coach Industries, Inc. This was a 2018 products liability trial out of Nevada during which the plaintiff noted that a design flaw by the mammoth bus manufacturer resulted in a surgeon bicyclist being sucked into the side of a bus, then run over by it. However, the lawsuit claimed that the real offence was in the company’s failure to warn bicyclists that this problem existed, rather than the design flaw itself. The doctor’s testimony in this clip is confined to her findings and opinions related to the victim’s injuries, their causes and their consequences.
The pathologist begins by pointing out abrasions and contusions on the left arm, knee and hip which she felt were caused by the bus hitting the cyclist on his left side. He also had rib fractures. These injuries would have resulted in the victim experiencing pain just before he died.
Demonstrating on a radiograph of the patient’s skull, the expert explains that the victim sustained a sizeable depressed skull fracture as well as a possible antlanto-occipital dislocation. The latter condition results when the ligaments connecting the head and the neck separate, resulting effectively in an internal decapitation. The pathologist clarifies that she could not say that this condition was probably, but only possible, due to there being only the one X-ray of this area which did not definitively reveal a dislocation from that angle.
Dr. Gavin concludes that the skull fractures occurred when the cyclist was actually run over by the bus, “his head being squashed, essentially”. The destruction on the cycling helmet supported this opinion.
Toxicology reports from either the Nevada donor network, from the blood taken at the scene or in the hospital, as well as from tissue samples taken at autopsy were negative for all drugs other than caffeine as could be seen after ingestion of coffee, tea or chocolate. All blood electrolytes were also within normal limits.
In this expert’s opinion, the patient’s death was due to “blunt force injuries of the head and chest.” She disagrees with another expert’s assessment that the victim’s head was hit by one-seventh of an inch of the sidewall of the bus’s tire, showing the jury the forehead injury was as much as two inches below the top of his head. This is consistent with the damage to the helmet which was run over by the tire, and not with contact just from a tiny portion of the sidewall.
Dr. Gavin does not feel that the victim would have lost consciousness immediately upon contact with the side of the bus. He certainly would have been in pain from that contact until his head actually hits the asphalt. If he was still conscious after contacting the asphalt, being run over by the tire of the bus would also have been painful. There were about thirty minutes from the time that he was hit until he ultimately succumbed.
The expert’s testimony was unwavering and defined the cause, extent, and consequences of the injuries for the jury. The result was an award of $18.7 million to the victim’s family.
Gary Gansar, MD, is residency-trained in general surgery. He served as Chief of Surgery and Staff at Elmwood Medical Center and on the Medical Executive Committee at Touro Infirmary and Mercy Hospital in New Orleans, LA. Dr. Gansar was Board Certified in general surgery while in active practice. He joined AMFS in 2015 as a Physician Medical Director.
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