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Brooks v. Caterpillar Global Mining America, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division

November 22, 2017

BEAU BROOKS and TINA BROOKS PLAINTIFFS
v.
CATERPILLAR GLOBAL MINING AMERICA, LLC DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Joseph H. McKinley Jr., Judge

         This matter is before the Court on a motion by Defendant, Caterpillar Global Mining America, LLC, to preclude or limit the testimony of Kristy Fleming [DN 145] and on a motion by Defendant for leave to file a supplemental memorandum in support of its motion to preclude or limit the testimony of Kristy Fleming [DN 183]. Fully briefed, these matters are ripe for decision.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This is a product-liability case against Defendant, Caterpillar Global Mining America, LLC (“CGM”), arising out of an accident that happened in May of 2013. Plaintiff, Beau Brooks, a Western Kentucky coal miner, sustained injuries to his left hand when his hand was crushed between a rib of coal and a Caterpillar RB220 Roof Bolter. Plaintiffs allege that the injury occurred because Brooks was holding onto the operator handle of the roof bolter that extended his hand beyond the roof and outside the protective operator compartment. Plaintiffs contend that the crush injuries would not have occurred if CGM's operator handle had not been located so close to the edge of the roof bolter's operator compartment that Brooks left hand was left unprotected.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion for Leave to File a Supplemental Memorandum [DN 183]

         Defendant filed a motion for leave to file a supplemental memorandum in support of its motion to preclude or limit the testimony of Kristy Fleming. [DN 183] Plaintiffs object to the Defendant's motion for leave to file a supplemental memorandum. [DN 196]. Defendant filed a response to the supplemental memorandum tendered by Defendant. [DN 199]. The Court grants the Defendant's motion for leave to file the supplemental memorandum [DN 183] and has considered the memorandum [DN 183-1] and Plaintiffs' response [DN 199] in determining the motion to preclude Fleming's testimony.

         B. Defendant's Motion to Preclude or Limit Testimony of Kristy Fleming [DNs 145, 183-1]

         In support of their claims against Defendant, Plaintiffs have indicated their intent to call as an expert witness, nurse practitioner Kristy Fleming. Defendant moves the Court to preclude or limit the testimony of this expert at trial arguing that her testimony does not meet the standards of Fed.R.Evid. 702 and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993).

         1. Standard

         Rule 702 provides that “[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.” Under Rule 702, the trial judge acts as a gatekeeper to ensure that expert evidence is both reliable and relevant. Mike's Train House, Inc. v. Lionel, L.L.C., 472 F.3d 398, 407 (6th Cir. 2006) (citing Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999)).

Parsing the language of the Rule, it is evident that a proposed expert's opinion is admissible, at the discretion of the trial court, if the opinion satisfies three requirements. First, the witness must be qualified by “knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education.” Fed.R.Evid. 702. Second, the testimony must be relevant, meaning that it “will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.” Id. Third, the testimony must be reliable. Id.

In re Scrap Metal Antitrust Litig., 527 F.3d 517, 528-29 (6th Cir. 2008). “Rule 702 guides the trial court by providing general standards to assess reliability.” Id.

         In determining whether testimony is reliable, the Court's focus “must be solely on principles and methodology, not on the conclusions that they generate.” Daubert, 509 U.S. at 595. The Supreme Court identified a non-exhaustive list of factors that may help the Court in assessing the reliability of a proposed expert's opinion. These factors include: (1) whether a theory or technique can be or has been tested; (2) whether the theory has been subjected to peer review and publication; (3) whether the technique has a known or potential rate of error; and (4) whether the theory or technique enjoys “general acceptance” within a “relevant scientific community.” Id. at 592-94. This gatekeeping role is not limited to expert testimony based on scientific knowledge, but instead extends to “all ‘scientific, ' ‘technical, ' or ‘other specialized' matters” within the scope of Rule 702. Kumho Tire Co., 526 U.S. at 147. Whether the Court applies these factors to assess the reliability of an expert's testimony ‚Äúdepend[s] on the nature of the issue, the expert's ...


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