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Mills v. Riggsbee

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

March 20, 2014

RONALD MILLS and MALINDA MILLS, Plaintiffs,
v.
MARK S. RIGGSBEE, et al., Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.

Currently before the Court is the motion in limine filed by Defendants, Mark S. Riggsbee and Task Force Tips, Inc. (collectively, "Defendants"), to exclude the testimony of Ronald L. Hopkins, CFPS, CFEI, pursuant to Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), Kumho Tire Co. Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999), and Federal Rule of Evidence 702. Also before the Court is Defendants' motion in limine to preclude Hopkins from testifying as to any inspection of the Berea Fire Department fire hose and his opinions regarding the inspection of the hose [DE #75]. These motions are fully briefed and ripe for review.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Defendant Task Force Tips is the manufacturer, producer and/or seller of various firefighting equipment, including a device known as the Blitz-Fire Monitor fire hose water regulator. The Blitz-Fire Monitor is a device that sits on the ground and is attached to the end of a fire department fire hose and allows firefighters to fight fires without hand-holding the fire hose. Part of the monitor's design includes an automatic shut-off system.

Plaintiffs contend that Plaintiff Ronald Mills, a firefighter for the City of Berea, was injured on October 13, 2011, when he attended a sales demonstration of the Blitz-Fire Monitor performed at the Berea Fire Department by Defendant Mark Riggsbee. For purposes of the demonstration, the monitor was attached to a fire hose attached to a Berea Fire Department pumper truck. During the demonstration, the fire hose came loose from the pumper truck, knocking Mills off his feet and causing him injury. Plaintiffs claim that the fire hose detached from the truck because of "water hammer, " a condition that the monitor was supposed to eliminate. "Water hammer" occurs from the back flow of water when a fire hose is shut off too quickly, causing a build-up of pressure. Defendants deny that water hammer occurred and instead claim that the accident was caused by a faulty fire hose.

Plaintiffs have named Hopkins as an expert expected to testify in this matter. According to Plaintiffs, Hopkins will testify that the fire hose separated from the pumper truck due to water hammer. Hopkins will also testify that the fire hose used during the demonstration was not defective. Defendants have filed this motion seeking to exclude Hopkins' testimony on the grounds that Hopkins' opinions are not scientifically reliable and, therefore, must be excluded from trial. A hearing on Defendants' motion was held on November 15, 2013. Plaintiffs did not offer Hopkins as a witness, nor did Hopkins otherwise attend the hearing.

II. STANDARD

In Daubert, the Supreme Court "established guidelines for district courts to use in determining the admissibility of expert testimony pursuant to Rules 702 and 104 of the Federal Rules of Evidence." Pride v. BIC Corp., 218 F.3d 566, 577 (6th Cir. 2000). Daubert applies to "scientific, " "technical" and "otherwise specialized" knowledge. Kumho Tire Co., 526 U.S. at 141. "Although... the evaluation of expert testimony is generally left to juries, the Court emphasized the trial judge's gatekeeping' role with respect to expert proof...." Pride, 218 F.3d at 577 (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 597-98). The Federal Rules of Evidence provide that an expert who is qualified:

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 ...

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