Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Sloan Valve Co. v. Zurn Industries, Inc.

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

October 3, 2013

SLOAN VALVE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
ZURN INDUSTRIES, INC., and ZURN INDUSTRIES, LLC, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Sloan Valve Company ("Sloan") filed the present civil action against Defendant Zurn Industries, Inc. and Zurn Industries, LLC (collectively "Zurn") alleging various patent infringement claims on its U.S. Patent No. 7, 607, 635 ("the Wilson patent"), including willful infringement. Sloan has disclosed Michael C. Thuma as one of its technical experts for trial. Zurn has moved to exclude the expert testimony of Thuma pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993). For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants the motion in part and denies it in part.

BACKGROUND

Sloan alleges that Zurn willfully infringed the Wilson patent. Specifically, Sloan has alleged that Zurn appropriated its "dual mode flush valve invention, " therefore infringing the Wilson patent, entitled "Flush Valve Handle Assembly Providing Dual Mode Operation" and the corresponding U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2006/0151729 (the "729 Patent Application"). The Wilson Patent "relates to flush valves for use with plumbing fixtures such as toilets, and more specifically to improvements in the bushing of the actuating handle assembly that will provide for user-selectable, dual mode operation of the flush valve." (R. 314-1, Wilson Patent, col 1, 6-10.) The improvement is a mechanism that allows a user to select one of two flush volumes based on the direction of actuation of the handle: a full flush volume to evacuate solid waste from the bowl or a reduced flush volume to remove liquid waste. ( Id., col. 1, 11-19, col. 2, 27-33.)

Sloan disclosed Michael C. Thuma as one of its technical experts. Sloan asked Thuma "to consider how long it would have taken to design and make the fixture that Zurn uses in a milling operation to machine an angled axis through the central passage of the retainer used in Zurn's dual flush handle." Based on this information, Sloan asked Thuma to opine on "the complexity of fabricating Zurn's fixture with respect to level of skill and amount of time."

LEGAL STANDARD

"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. See also 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 whether the expert testimony is both relevant and reliable prior to its admission at trial. See id.; Power Integrations, Inc. v. Fairchild Semiconductor Intern., Inc., 711 F.3d 1348, 1373 (Fed. Cir. 2013); 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 "make the following inquiries before admitting expert testimony: first, the expert must be qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education; second, the proposed expert must assist the trier of fact in determining a relevant fact at issue in the case; third, the expert's testimony must be based on sufficient facts or data and reliable principles and methods; and fourth, the expert must have reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case." Lees v. Carthage College, 714 F.3d 516, 521-22 (7th Cir. 2013); see also Stollings v. Ryobi Tech., Inc., 725 F.3d 753, 765 (7th Cir. 2013); Power Integrations, 711 F.3d at 1373; Pansier, 576 F.3d at 737.

In assessing the admissibility of an expert's testimony, the Court's focus "must be solely on principles and methodology, not on the conclusions they generate.'" Winters, 498 F.3d at 742 (quoting Chapman v. Maytag Corp., 297 F.3d 682, 687 (7th Cir. 2002)). See also Stollings, 725 F.3d at 765. "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, 526 U.S. at 152). "A Daubert inquiry is not designed to have the district judge take the place of the jury to decide ultimate issues of credibility and accuracy." Lapsley v. Xtek, Inc., 689 F.3d 802, 805 (7th Cir. 2012).

ANALYSIS

Zurn seeks to exclude the expert testimony of Mr. Michael Thuma pursuant to Rule 702 and Daubert. See Fed.R.Evid. 702; Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993). Zurn contends that Mr. Thuma's opinions are pure speculation and that they amount to improper credibility testimony.

I. Mr. Thuma

Mr. Thuma has served as the Director of Product Development and Innovation for Suncast Corporation, a consumer goods company and manufacturer of outdoor products. (R. 560-1, Thuma Report ΒΆ 3.) Mr. Thuma has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design from the University of Illinois and a Master of Science in New Product Development from Northwestern University. ( Id. ) His Master of Science program consisted of a combination of classes "geared towards the process of developing new products." (R. 659, Transcript of Thuma Daubert Hearing ("Tr.") at 24.) Mr. Thuma has "extensive experience in ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.