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Bellas v. Orthofix Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

February 15, 2017

TIMOTHY BELLAS, Plaintiff,
v.
ORTHOFIX, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN W. DARRAH United States District Court Judge

         Plaintiff Timothy Bellas filed a Complaint against Defendant Orthofix, Inc. (“Defendant”) and others, in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Defendant then removed the action to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. The Complaint alleges negligence; strict liability for manufacturing defects, design defects, and failure to warn; and breaches of express and implied warranties against Defendant based on the Orthofix LRS external fixator. Plaintiff retained Dr. Charles A. Rawlings as his proposed expert on the medical device at issue. Defendant filed a Motion to Bar Plaintiff's Proposed Expert Charles Rawlings [84] pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 702. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion [84] is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born with a congenital defect, and his right leg is approximately 3.5 centimeters shorter than his left leg. On March 22, 2010, Plaintiff underwent a right femur osteotomy and placement of the Orthofix LRS fixator on his right leg. The Orthofix LRS is capable of compressing or lengthening the bone, depending on how it is turned. Whether the device should be adjusted in a clockwise or counter-clockwise fashion depends on how the device is assembled by the physician when it is installed. Dr. Edward Abraham, who performed the surgery, affixed a piece of tape to the Orthofix LRS with an arrow indicating the correct direction for adjustments.

         At a May 28, 2010 follow-up appointment, an x-ray revealed that Plaintiff's femur had shortened rather than lengthened. Dr. Abraham determined that the Orthofix LRS device had been adjusted in the opposite direction of the one he had instructed. The tape showing the correct direction had not fallen off, and the device was not defective. Plaintiff underwent a remedial procedure on May 24, 2010, which involved adjusting the Orthofix LRS and manipulation of the osteotomy site. Defendant distributes the Orthofix LRS but was not involved with the design, manufacture, or testing of the device.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Under the Federal Rule of Evidence 702, trial courts must determine, as a precondition to admissibility, whether expert evidence rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant. Manpower, Inc. v. Ins. Co. of Pennsylvania, 732 F.3d 796, 806 (7th Cir. 2013). “Expert testimony is admissible when the testimony is reliable and would assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or determine a fact at issue in a case.” Lewis v. CITGO Petroleum Corp., 561 F.3d 698, 705 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Fed.R.Evid. 702; Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589-91 (1993)). The party seeking to introduce expert testimony bears the burden of demonstrating that the proposed testimony satisfies this standard by a preponderance of the evidence. Id. The rule on expert testimony is liberal, and doubts about the usefulness of an expert's testimony are generally resolved in favor of admissibility. Davis v. Duran, 277 F.R.D. 362, 366 (N.D. Ill. 2011) (citing Krist v. Eli Lilly & Co., 897 F.2d 293, 298 (7th Cir. 1990); United States v. Finch, 630 F.3d 1057, 1062 (8th Cir. 2011)).

         ANALYSIS

         Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which governs the admissibility of expert testimony, states:

         A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:

(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the ...

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