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LG Electronics v. Whirlpool Corp.

September 3, 2010


Order Form (01/2005)

Name of Assigned Judge or Magistrate Judge Amy J. St. Eve

Sitting Judge if Other than Assigned Judge


Plaintiff's motion to exclude the expert testimony and strike the expert reports and opinions of Dr. Subbaiah Malladi [375] is granted in part and denied in part.

O[ For further details see text below.] Notices mailed by Judicial staff.


Plaintiff, LG Electronics U.S.A., Inc. ("LG"), has filed a motion ("Motion") to exclude the opinions and testimony of Dr. Subbaiah Malladi, one of Defendant Whirlpool Corporation's ("Whirlpool") experts. The Court held a Daubert hearing on July 15, 2010, during which Dr. Malladi testified for most of the day. For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part the Motion.


"The admissibility of expert testimony is governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and the Supreme Court's opinion in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed. 2d 469 (1993)." Lewis v. Citgo Petroleum Corp., 561 F.3d 698, 705 (7th Cir. 2009). Rule 702 provides, in relevant part, that "[i]f scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact[,] . . . a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion. . . ." Id. The Rule "also requires that: (1) the testimony must be based upon sufficient facts or data; (2) it must be the product of reliable principles and methods; and (3) the witness must have applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case." Happel v. Walmart Stores, Inc., 602 F.3d 820, 824 (7th Cir. 2010).

Under the expert-testimony framework, courts perform the gatekeeping function of determining prior to admission whether the expert testimony is both relevant and reliable. See id.; United States v. Pansier, 576 F.3d 726, 737 (7th Cir. 2009) ("To determine reliability, the court should consider the proposed expert's full range of experience and training, as well as the methodology used to arrive [at] a particular conclusion."). In doing so, courts employ a three-step analysis: "[T]he witness must be qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education[;] the expert's reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony must be scientifically reliable; and the testimony must assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue." Ervin v. Johnson & Johnson, Inc., 492 F.3d 901, 904 (7th Cir. 2007) (internal quotations and citations omitted); see also Pansier, 576 F.3d at 737. As the Seventh Circuit instructs, "'[t]he focus of the district court's Daubert inquiry must be solely on principles and methodology, not on the conclusions they generate.'" Winters v. Fru-Con Inc., 498 F.3d 734, 742 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Chapman v. Maytag Corp., 297 F.3d 682, 687 (7th Cir. 2002)). "The goal of Daubert is to assure that experts employ the same 'intellectual rigor' in their courtroom testimony as would be employed by an expert in the relevant field." Jenkins v. Bartlett, 487 F.3d 482, 489 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 152, 119 S.Ct. 1167 (1999)).

In Daubert, the Supreme Court offered the following non-exclusive factors to aid courts in determining whether a particular expert opinion is grounded in a reliable scientific methodology: (1) whether the proffered theory can be and has been tested; (2) whether the theory has been subjected to peer review and publication; (3) whether the theory has a known or potential rate of error; and (4) whether the relevant scientific community has accepted the theory. See Happel, 602 F.3d at 824; Winters, 498 F.3d at 742. Further, the 2000 Advisory Committee's Notes to Rule 702 list the following additional factors for gauging an expert's reliability: (1) whether the testimony relates to "matters growing naturally and directly out of research . . . conducted independent of the litigation"; (2) "[w]hether the expert has unjustifiably extrapolated from an accepted premise to an unfounded conclusion"; (3) "[w]hether the expert has adequately accounted for obvious alternative explanations"; (4) "[w]hether the expert is being as careful as he would be in his regular professional work outside paid litigation consulting"; and (5) "[w]hether the field of expertise claimed by the expert is known to reach reliable results for the type of opinion the expert would give." Id. (internal quotations omitted); see also American Honda Motor Co. v. Allen, 600 F.3d 813, 817 (7th Cir. 2010); Fuesting v. Zimmer, Inc., 421 F.3d 528, 534-35 (7th Cir. 2005), vacated in part on other grounds, 448 F.3d 936 (7th Cir. 2006); Deputy v. Lehman Bros., Inc., 345 F.3d 494, 505 (7th Cir. 2003) (noting that the Daubert analysis is flexible); Goodwin v. MTD Prods., Inc., 232 F.3d 600, 608 n.4 (7th Cir. 2000) (noting that "the Daubert Court 'emphasized that it did not presume to set out a definitive checklist or test, and that the district judge's inquiry should be flexible'" (quoting United States v. Vitek Supply Corp., 144 F.3d 476, 485 (7th Cir. 1998))).

An expert may be qualified to render opinions based on experience alone. "In certain fields, experience is the predominant, if not the sole basis for a great deal of reliable expert testimony." Advisory Committee Notes to Rule 702. The Seventh Circuit has repeatedly stated that "genuine expertise may be based on experience or training." United States v. Conn, 297 F.3d 548, 556 (7th Cir. 2002) (quoting Tyus v. Urban Search Mgmt., 102 F.3d 256, 263 (7th Cir. 1996)). "[W]hile extensive academic and practical expertise in an area is certainly sufficient to qualify a potential witness as an expert, Rule 702 specifically contemplates the admission of testimony by experts whose knowledge is based on experience." Trustees of Chicago Painters & Decorators Pension, Health & Welfare, & Deferred Sav. Plan Trust Funds v. Royal Intern. Drywall & Decorating, Inc., 493 F.3d 782, 787-88 (7th Cir. 2007) (citations and quotations omitted). As such, courts "consider a proposed expert's full range of practical experience, as well as academic or technical training, when determining whether that expert is qualified to render an opinion in a given area." Id. (quoting Smith v. Ford Motor Co., 215 F.3d 713, 718 (7th Cir. 2000)).


I. Dr. Malladi's Background and Experience

Dr. Malladi obtained his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from California Institute of Technology, specializing in fluid mechanics and heat transfer. (Ex. 1, Curriculum Vitae at 1; Tr. at 4, 6.*fn1 ) He also has a bachelor of science degree in physics, chemistry, and mathematics; a bachelor of engineering degree in mechanical engineering; and a masters of technology degree in mechanical engineering. (Ex. 1, Curriculum Vitae at 1; Tr. at 4.) While attending school, Dr. Malladi took more than ten courses related to thermodynamics and a number of courses related to fluid mechanics and heat transfer. (Tr. at 6.) He is a Registered Professional Mechanical Engineer in California and New York, has four scientific publications, and has made various presentations on scientific topics. (Ex. 1, Curriculum Vitae at 2; Tr. at 10.) Further, he is a member of the following organizations: (1) American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, (2) American Association for the Advancement of Science, (3) Combustion Institute, (4) National Fire Protection Association, and (5) Society of Automotive Engineers. (Ex. 1, Curriculum Vitae at 3; Tr. at 10.)

Dr. Malladi is the Chief Technical Officer and Corporate Vice President at Exponent Failure Analysis Associates, Inc. ("Exponent"), an engineering-consulting firm with about 900 engineering and scientific professionals. (Tr. at 8-9.) As part of his job, Dr. Malladi studies how design specifications and consumer use lead to product failure. (Id. at 8-9.) Dr. Malladi's investigations typically involve taking products apart, comprehensively testing them, and evaluating their design history. (Id. at 10.) He has analyzed washing machines, microwaves, and safety devices on Emerson Electric coffee makers. (Id. at 11.) He has also worked on a project that involved a fire in a dryer, during which he disassembled the dryer and made detailed ...

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