On September 14, 2023, in the latest of a string of decisions obtained by LPJUK upholding Rule 702’s and Daubert’s requirements that a trial court ensure that an expert’s testimony rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted our client’s motion to exclude the reports and testimony of Plaintiffs’ two liability experts and motion for summary judgment in a product liability case, adopting Magistrate Judge Lehrburger’s April 12, 2023 Report and Recommendations. Over Plaintiffs’ objections to the R&R, the Honorable Paul G. Gardephe, U.S.D.J., adopted the R&R in its entirety. Notably, Judge Gardephe rejected Plaintiffs argument that testing their theories was “virtually impossible” finding that this argument “only demonstrates that his opinions have no reliable foundation” because “[w]ithout any testing, and without any other data or analysis to support his theories that the conditions observed rendered [the product] defective and caused his accident, [the expert’s] opinion does not pass the threshold for admissibility.” Judge Gardephe likewise rejected Plaintiffs’ argument that the mere occurrence of other incidents was an adequate substitute for testing in establishing reliability of their experts’ opinions.
Judge Gardephe’s opinion follows on the heels of last week’s similar decision by the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma granting our client’s motion to exclude the reports and testimony of Plaintiff’s two liability experts and motion for summary judgment based on Plaintiff’s experts’ failure to tie the specific facts of Plaintiff’s accident with their theories of defect. In this matter, the Court was faced with different experts and a different theory of liability and defect than the other four cases. Rejecting the Plaintiff’s argument that his experts’ lack of analysis of the particular circumstances of his accident were a matter for cross-examination, the Honorable David L. Russell, U.S.D.J., held that, without such analysis, the experts’ causation opinions were mere speculation and inadmissible. The decision was issued on September 8, 2023.
Exactly three months earlier, on June 8, 2023, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas similarly precluded the reports of testimony of Plaintiff’s two liability experts and granted summary judgment. In the opinion, the Honorable Michael J. Truncale, U.S.D.J., while questioning both experts’ relevant qualifications, determined the experts’ opinions were unreliable and inadmissible. In reaching his opinion, Judge Truncale reinforced the long-standing edict that the mere occurrence of an accident, or even many accidents, is not proof of a defect. Rather, qualified and reliable expert testimony bridging the gap between the two is necessary and without that, a plaintiff may not proceed to a jury on a theory of design defect.
Earlier this year, on March 30, 2023, the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky issued the second opinion of this quinfecta. The Honorable Greg N. Stivers, U.S.D.J., precluded the reports of testimony of Plaintiff’s two liability experts and granting summary judgment, recognizing that admission of expert testimony requires more than “conclusions based only on personal opinion and experience” and “opinions amounting to no more than a hypothesis are not reliable, despite how convincing they may appear.” Simply, failure to test or otherwise corroborate defect theories equals unsupported speculation that must be precluded under Daubert.
We previously reported on the initial decision out of the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina issued on February 4, 2022. In that matter, the Honorable Joseph Dawson, U.S.D.J., held that Plaintiffs’ proffered expert was unqualified and his testimony and report failed to meet the Daubert test for reliability and relevancy. The Court noted that the expert’s theory was untested and not supported by a single peer-reviewed study or publication. The Court found that, without admissible expert testimony, Plaintiffs could not sustain their burden to establish a product defect that proximately caused their injuries and granted summary judgment in favor of our client dismissing the case.
These five decisions reinforce Daubert’s holding that an expert must bridge the logical gap between the facts of the expert’s observations and the conclusion that the observed conditions constitute product defects which caused injury. The LPJUK team responsible for these results included Robert Joyce, Keith Gibson, Kristen Dennison, Jonathan Woy, Carolyn Davis, Jackson Thomas, and Charles Gilliam-Brownlee.