THORNBERRY, Circuit Judge:
This Alabama diversity case calls into question the proper interpretation to be given terms contained in a policy of life insurance. The insured, Eddie L. Berdeaux, was killed as a result of an accident while operating his 1970 Ford "one-half ton pickup" truck in Crenshaw County, Alabama. Following an unsuccessful demand for payment, the insured's beneficiary, his wife, commenced this action against the Gamble Alden
Appendix at 4 (Emphasis supplied).
Over appellant's objection, the case was submitted to the jury, which returned a verdict in favor of Mrs. Berdeaux.
As a preliminary matter, the parties agree that evidence of the actual use to which the insured put the vehicle was not relevant on the issue of primary design purpose. See Supplemental Brief for Appellee at 1; Tuttle v. Gamble Alden Life Insurance Company, 385 F.Supp. 1352, 1356 (N.D.Tex.1974). Appellant argues, however, that the introduction of this evidence in the district court irreparably prejudiced its case before the jury. Assuming for the purposes of argument that evidence of actual use is not admissible, we reject appellant's argument of irreparable prejudice. The district court instructed the jury in clear and precise language not to consider evidence of actual use,
The evidence challenged by appellant insurance company came from plaintiff's witness, L. R. Perry, a "truck specialist" with twenty-four years experience in the merchandising of Ford trucks. See Appendix at 44. Testifying that the vehicle in question could be characterized as "dual purpose," see Appendix at 53, 58, Mr. Perry also stated at four points in his testimony that the primary design
To rebut the Perry testimony, appellant introduced the deposition of Robert Beauvais, a design engineer with eleven years experience in the Light Truck Division of the Ford Motor Company. In his deposition, Mr. Beauvais stated that the primary design purpose of Ford trucks, including the 1970 one-half ton pickup truck, is the transportation of property, and the same witness rejected the suggestion that the primary design purpose is the transportation of persons. See Appendix at 87, 88-89. Responding to the conflict between the testimony of Mr. Perry and the deposition of Mr. Beauvais, appellant argues that in the absence of a qualified witness with a contrary opinion, the view of the manufacturer or its representative is controlling on the question of primary design purpose. We view appellant's argument as a challenge to the district court's qualification of Mr. Perry as an expert witness on the question of primary design purpose, see Appendix at 52, and we will analyze the argument accordingly.
The competency of an expert witness is a matter addressed largely to the discretion of the trial judge, e. g., Dyas v. Kansas City Southern Ry. Co., 425 F.2d 1073, 1074 (5 Cir. 1970); Reuter v. Eastern Airlines, Inc., 226 F.2d 443, 445 (5 Cir. 1955), and the district court's qualification of an expert will be sustained unless clearly and manifestly erroneous. E. g., Scott v. Fancher, 369 F.2d 842, 844 (5 Cir. 1966). From our examination of Mr. Perry's credentials, and being mindful of the limited scope of our review, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in qualifying Mr. Perry as an expert witness on the primary design purpose of the 1970 Ford one-half ton pickup truck. As indicated above, Mr. Perry possessed at the time of trial twenty-four years experience in the marketing of Ford trucks. Mr. Perry had attended numerous workshops and training institutes devoted to the study of Ford trucks, including their design, see Appendix at 45, and he was, in his lengthy career, a recipient of many sales awards. See Appendix at 46. We recognize, and Mr. Perry testified, that one must know the product to be an effective salesman. See Appendix at 47-48.
The process by which industrial design decisions are made is usually complex, sometimes involves thousands of technical and management personnel, and can be measured most conveniently in years. This observation is particularly appropriate when one speaks of an automotive product. Admittedly, the manufacturer or its representative may be the best witness to the primary design purpose of a particular vehicle; we reject, however, the notion that the manufacturer or its representative is the only source of expert opinion on the issue of primary design purpose. The Beauvais deposition, introduced by appellant, must be recognized for what it was: one man's attempt, albeit expert, to trace the path taken in a complicated decision-making process. Likewise, the Perry testimony, relied on by plaintiff, was one expert's opinion on a disputed issue of fact. The useful distinction in this area is that drawn between the admissibility of expert opinion and the weight to be afforded that opinion. See Eastern Airlines, Inc. v. American Cyanamid, 321 F.2d 683 (5 Cir. 1963). The admissibility of the Perry testimony — or more accurately, Mr. Perry's qualification as an expert — was properly a matter for the
As a final matter, appellant challenges that portion of the jury charge permitting consideration of the general use given pickup trucks by members of the public in deciding the question of primary design purpose.
Accordingly, the judgment of the district court is in all respects affirmed.
Appendix at 126.