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Brian Sadler and Michelle Sadler, Individually and On Behalf of Their Minor Child, B.S. v. Advanced Bionics

April 1, 2013

BRIAN SADLER AND MICHELLE SADLER, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF THEIR MINOR CHILD, B.S. PLAINTIFFS
v.
ADVANCED BIONICS, LLC DEFENDANT



MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This matter is before the Court upon Defendant Advanced Bionics, LLC's Motion to Limit the Testimony of Plaintiffs' Expert Tom Green. (ECF No. 117.) Plaintiffs Brian and Michelle Sadler, individually and on behalf of their minor child B.S., have responded, (ECF No. 137), and Defendant has replied, (ECF No. 160). This matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion will be sustained in part and denied in part.

I.

The admissibility of expert testimony is governed by Fed. R. Evid. 702, which provides:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:

(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;

(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;

(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and

(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

In Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., "the Supreme Court established a general gatekeeping obligation for trial courts to exclude from trial expert testimony that is unreliable and irrelevant." Conwood Co. v. U.S. Tobacco Co., 290 F.3d 768, 792 (6th Cir. 2002) (alteration and internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Hardyman v. Norfolk & W. Ry. Co., 243 F.3d 255, 260 (6th Cir. 2001) (applying Daubert, 509 U.S. 579, 597 (1993); Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 147-48 (1999))). The Court must determine whether evidence proffered under Fed. R. Evid. 702 "both rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand." Daubert, 509 U.S. at 597. A key consideration is "whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is sufficiently valid." Id. at 592-93. The Supreme Court advises that the inquiry is "a flexible one," and that "[t]he focus . . . must be solely on principles and methodology, not on the conclusions they generate." Id. at 594-95. A testifying expert must "employ[] in the courtroom the same level of intellectual rigor that characterizes the practice of an expert in the relevant field." Kumho Tire, 526 U.S. at 152.

Despite that there is no "definitive checklist or test" for meeting the standard of Fed. R. Evid. 702, Daubert laid out a number of factors that typically "bear on the inquiry," including: whether the theory or method in question "can be (and has been) tested," whether it "has been subjected to peer review and publication," whether it has a "known or potential rate of error," and whether the theory or technique enjoys "general acceptance" in the "relevant scientific community." Daubert, 509 U.S. at 593-94. Although Daubert addressed scientific evidence, the Supreme Court in Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael held that a trial court may consider the Daubert factors for all types of expert evidence. Kumho Tire, 526 U.S. at 150. Thus, the Daubert factors are nonexhaustive and may not be pertinent in cases where "the relevant reliability concerns . . . focus upon personal knowledge or experience." Id.; see also First Tenn. Bank Nat'l Ass'n v. Barreto, 268 F.3d 319, 335 (6th Cir. 2001).

The Court need not necessarily hold a Daubert hearing to determine the admissibility of expert testimony but, nonetheless, must ensure that the disputed testimony is both relevant and reliable. See Clay v. Ford Motor Co., 215 F.3d 663, 667 (6th Cir. 2000). Generally, "a trial judge . . . ha[s] considerable leeway in deciding whether particular expert testimony is reliable," Kumho Tire, 526 U.S. at 152; accord Conwood, 290 F.3d at 792; Jahn v. Equine Servs., PSC, 233 F.3d 382, 388 (6th Cir. 2000), and his decision whether to admit expert testimony is reviewed for abuse of discretion, see Kumho Tire, 526 U.S. at 142; Newell Rubbermaid, 676 F.3d at 527; Hardyman, 243 F.3d at 258; see also Tamraz v. Lincoln Electric Co., 620 F.3d 665, 672 (6th Cir. 2010) ("Rule 702, we recognize, does not require anything approaching absolute certainty. And where one person sees speculation, we acknowledge, another may see knowledge, which is why the district court enjoys broad discretion over where to draw the line." (internal citations omitted)).

II.

Plaintiffs' expert Tom Green holds a bachelor of science in metallurgy and materials engineering, as well as a master's degree in engineering administration. His field of expertise is hermeticity, in which he has over thirty-years' experience. (See ECF No. 118 at 53-58.) Green also professes substantial experience in hermeticity testing and failure analysis in the context of microelectronic packing. Green submitted a more than page expert report detailing his opinions in this matter. (See ECF No. 118.) He has been deposed previously in other cases but has never testified at trial.

Defendant moves to exclude Green's testimony on four grounds: (1) Green opines on regulatory matters beyond his expertise; (2) Green offers inadmissible personal opinions characterizing Defendant's conduct as "negligent" and "reckless," and Green improperly offers legal conclusions; (3) Green discusses irrelevant matters that are both unrelated to the Astro Seal feedthru at issue here and unsupported by scientific evidence; and (4) Green seeks to impose requirements different from, or in addition ...


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