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Andrew Goesel and Christine v. Boley International (H.K.) Ltd.; Broadway Toys Industries Ltd

October 24, 2012

ANDREW GOESEL AND CHRISTINE GOESEL, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NEXT FRIEND TO COLE GOESEL, A MINOR, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BOLEY INTERNATIONAL (H.K.) LTD.; BROADWAY TOYS INDUSTRIES LTD.; FOSHAN SHUNDE DISTRICT NA WEI PLASTIC & HARDWARE CO., LTD.; AND TARGET CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Milton I. Shadur Senior United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This action seeks to recover damages sustained by then five year old Cole Goesel ("Cole") when a plastic toy sword that he was playing with -- part of a toy product known as the "Boley Cosmic Robot" -- shattered and a piece of that sword pierced Cole's eye. After discovery was closed, this Court approved and entered the jointly submitted final pretrial order ("FPTO") on June 21, 2012, and the litigants adhered to the schedule provided there for the submission of motions in limine by tendering a host of such motions -- 13 by plaintiffs (cited simply "P. No. --") and 11 by defendants.

With each side having responded to the other side's motions, they are ripe for decision. This opinion will deal with plaintiffs' motions, with defendants' motions to be addressed hereafter in a separate opinion.

P. Nos. 1, 2 and 3 all relate to aspects of the proposed testimony of opinion witness*fn1 Bert Reiner ("Reiner"), whose CV recites:

I have been in the toy and juvenile product industries for 35 years, developing, engineering and manufacturing toys and children's products. Since June 1988, I have been president of Reiner Associates, Inc., a company primarily engaged in Engineering and Quality Assurance consultation to these industries.

Here in summary are the aspects of Reiner's proposed testimony sought to be barred by plaintiffs' motions:

1. P. No. 1 objects to Reiner's opining on the type of plastic of which the sword that injured Cole and the sample swords tested by plaintiffs' opinion witness were manufactured.

2. P. No. 2 seeks to bar Reiner's testimony as to the reasonable foreseeability of Cole's conduct at the time of the occurrence.

3. P. No. 3 seeks to preclude Reiner's proposed testimony criticizing the manner in which plaintiffs' opinion witness conducted abuse testing of those sample swords.

As to P. No. 1, plaintiffs have submitted evidence from a highly credentialed opinion witness, Dr. Duane Priddy, who conducted a sophisticated chemical analysis that concluded the sword that shattered was manufactured from a type of plastic known as "crystal" or "general purpose" polystyrene. By contrast, nothing in Reiner's history in the toy industry gives him even the slightest of credentials to speak to that issue, thus presenting the familiar situation in which a proposed witness has credentials that would enable him or her to testify in other areas but not on the subject under consideration (see, e.g., DePaepe v. Gen. Motors Corp., 141 F.3d 715, 720 (7th Cir. 1998)).

Defendants' attempted response to P. No. 1 offers nothing substantive to support Reiner's testimony on a subject in which he is totally lacking in qualifications. Hence P. No. 1 is granted.

As for P. No. 2, it is a long time since Reiner was five years old -- his CV reflects that he graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute more than a half century ago. More seriously, his Fed. R. Civ. P. ("Rule") 26(a)(2)(B) report said nothing at all on the issue of foreseeability, a subject on which he later advanced an ipse dixit during his post-report deposition.*fn2 In that respect Reiner's background and experience are singularly deficient in any showing that would entitle him to claim "scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge [that] will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue" (the language of Evid. R. 702(a)). Instead members of the lay jury will be able on their own to deal with the issue of foreseeability. Indeed, Reiner's willingness to reach out gratuitously beyond his own field of special know-how appears to raise serious concerns as to his general credibility.*fn3

P. No. 3 also relates to a subject beyond the scope of the Reiner written report: During his deposition he said "that he also had 'questions' regarding the manner in which Plaintiffs' expert, Timothy Pine, had conducted abuse testing of other, identical toy swords also sold by Defendants" (P. No. 3 at 2). But as P. No. 3, id. went on to state:

Mr. Reiner, however, admitted at the deposition that he had not formulated a specific opinion on whether Mr. Pine's testing was consistent with the applicable requirements for such testing set forth in ASTM F-963. Further, Defendants have never supplemented Reiner's report to identify any definitive criticisms of Mr. Pine's tests.

Once again the wisdom of Greg Joseph's caveat is evident. This Court takes seriously its close of discovery orders, which it enters only when both sides have confirmed that they are through with the process -- in other words, its issuance of an FPTO is indeed "final," absent some extraordinary reason for changing the ground rules for trial that the FPTO establishes. In that regard this Court will not credit or honor the hedge that Reiner attempts to insert at the end of the "Conclusion" section of his written report:

Be advised that this report is based on information received to date; I reserve the right to change or amend my opinion, after receipt of ...


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