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Underhill v. Coleman Co., Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 2, 2014

PAULA UNDERHILL, Individually and as Special Administrator of the Estate of Galen Underhill, and SEAN UNDERHILL, Plaintiffs,
v.
COLEMAN COMPANY, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on plaintiffs Paula Underhill's and Sean Underhill's ("Plaintiffs") motion to exclude the expert testimony of Dr. Richard Roby (Doc. 112); and defendant Coleman Company, Inc.'s ("Coleman") motions to exclude the expert testimony of Eileen Kirkpatrick (Doc. 138), Robert Engberg (Doc. 139), and Dr. Gary Hutter (Doc. 141). Coleman filed a response (Doc. 126) to Plaintiffs' motion to exclude the testimony of Dr. Roby to which Plaintiffs replied (Doc. 127). Plaintiffs filed responses (Doc. 153, 161 & 164) to Coleman's motions to exclude the testimony of Kirkpatrick, Dr. Engberg, and Dr. Hutter. On March 6 and 7, 2014, the Court held hearings on the motions to exclude the testimony of Drs. Roby and Hutter. For the following reasons the Court denies Plaintiffs' motion to exclude the testimony of Dr. Roby (Doc. 112), grants in part and denies in part Coleman's motion to exclude the testimony of Dr. Hutter (Doc. 141), grants Coleman's motion to exclude the testimony of Engberg (Doc. 139), and denies Coleman's motion to exclude the testimony of Kirkpatrick (Doc. 138).

1. Standard

Admissibility of expert testimony is governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 702, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), and its progeny. In Daubert, the Supreme Court held that Federal Rule of Evidence 702 did not incorporate the "general acceptance" test set forth in Frye v. United States, 54 App. D.C. 46 (D.C. Cir. 1923). Instead, the Court held that Rule 702 required district judges to be gatekeepers for proposed scientific evidence. Daubert, 509 U.S. at 589; see also General Elec. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 142 (1997). For scientific evidence to be admissible, the Court found, a district court must find it both relevant and reliable; it must be scientific knowledge grounded "in the methods and procedures of science" and consist of more than "subjective belief or unsupported speculation." Daubert, 509 U.S. at 589-90.

In 2000, Rule 702 was amended in response to Daubert. United States v. Conn, 297 F.3d 548, 555 (7th Cir. 2002). In its current form, it reads as follows:

If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.

Fed. R. Evid. 702.

When dealing with scientific evidence, the preliminary question is "whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is scientifically valid and... whether that reasoning or methodology properly can be applied to the facts in issue." Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592-93. Considerations pertinent to this inquiry include whether a theory or technique is capable of being or has been tested, whether it has been subjected to peer review and publication, its known or potential rate of error when applied, and whether it has gained general acceptance. Id. at 593-94; accord Conn, 297 F.3d at 555. Rule 702's advisory committee's note suggests courts also consider:

(5) whether "maintenance standards and controls" exist; (6) whether the testimony relates to "matters growing naturally and directly out of research they have conducted independent of the litigation, " or developed "expressly for purposes of testifying"; (7) "[w]hether the expert has unjustifiably extrapolated from an accepted premise to an unfounded conclusion"; (8) "[w]hether the expert has adequately accounted for obvious alternative explanations"; (9) "[w]hether the expert is being as careful as he would be in his regular professional work outside his paid litigation consulting"; and (10) "[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."

Fed. R. Evid. 702 advisory committee's note (2000 amends.); accord 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), cert. denied, 127 S.Ct. 1151 (2007).

To determine if an expert is qualified to testify on a particular matter, a court should "consider a proposed expert's full range of practical experience as well as academic or technical training." Smith v. Ford Motor Co., 215 F.3d 713, 718 (7th Cir. 2000). However, generalized knowledge within an area is not necessarily enough to qualify an expert:

[A]n expert's qualifications must be within the same technical area as the subject matter of the expert's testimony; in other words, a person with expertise may only testify as to matters within that person's expertise. Generalized knowledge of a particular subject will not necessarily enable an expert to testify as to a specific subset of the general field of the expert's knowledge.

Martinez v. Sakurai Graphic Sys. Corp., No. 04 C 1274, 2007 WL 2570362, at * 2 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 30, 2007) (citing O'Conner v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 807 F.Supp. 1376, 1390 (C.D. Ill. 1992), aff'd, 13 F.3d 1090 (7th Cir. 1994)). With these standards in mind, the Court will ...


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