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Beaton v. Speedypc Software

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

December 21, 2017

ARCHIE BEATON, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
SPEEDYPC SOFTWARE, a British Columbia company, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Andrea R. Wood United States District Judge

         Defendant SpeedyPC Software (“SpeedyPC”) is a Canadian software company that sells software to optimize computer performance and protect computers from malware. In this class action, Plaintiff Archie Beaton has sued SpeedyPC claiming that the premium version of SpeedyPC's software that he and other class members purchased and installed on their computers did not live up to SpeedyPC's promises. Beaton and other SpeedyPC customers purchased the premium software after first running a diagnostic scan using SpeedyPC's free software that, according to Beaton, would report extensive problems regardless of whether such problems were actually present. After receiving the results of the scan, the customers were invited to purchase the premium software, SpeedyPC Pro, to fix those problems. But the premium software did not actually do what it claimed. As a result, Beaton claims that SpeedyPC breached implied warranties of fitness for a particular purpose and merchantability and committed fraudulent misrepresentation under various consumer protection laws. In connection with his motion to certify the class and subclass, Beaton proffered the expert report of Craig Snead. (Ex. 6 to Pl.'s Memo. in Supp. of Class Cert., Dkt. Nos. 125-6, 127-3 (“Snead's Expert Rep.”).) In opposing Beaton's motion, SpeedyPC proffered the expert report of Monty G. Myers. (Ex. F to Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Mot. for Class Cert., Dkt. No. 135-13 (“Myers's Expert Rep.”).) The parties filed cross-motions to bar each other's proffered expert testimony. (Dkt. Nos. 143, 145.)[1] The Court now rules on those motions as follows.

         I. Legal Standards

         Rule 702 governs the admissibility of expert evidence in federal court. It provides as follows:

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 facts of the case.

Fed. R. Evid. 702. Under this rule, expert testimony must not only assist the trier of fact, it must also demonstrate sufficient reliability. C.W. ex rel. Wood v. Textron, Inc., 807 F.3d 827, 834 (7th Cir. 2015). “[T]he district court serves as a ‘gatekeeper' whose role is to ensure that an expert's testimony is reliable and relevant.” Stuhlmacher v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 774 F.3d 405, 409 (7th Cir. 2014). The Supreme Court in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. laid out four factors by which courts can evaluate the reliability of expert testimony: (1) whether the expert's conclusions are falsifiable; (2) whether the expert's method has been subject to peer review; (3) whether there is a known error rate associated with the technique; and (4) whether the method is generally accepted in the relevant scientific community. 509 U.S. 579, 593-94 (1993). This list is neither exhaustive nor mandatory and, ultimately, reliability is determined on a case-by-case basis. Textron, Inc., 807 F.3d at 835.

         II. SpeedyPC's Motion to Bar Plaintiff's Expert Snead

         Snead is a software and website developer with significant experience in custom software development and source code review. He was hired by Beaton in this matter and tasked with analyzing the diagnostic function of the free version of SpeedyPC's software. Snead concludes that the diagnostic function of the free version of SpeedyPC's software assesses the level of computer damage indiscriminately and is programmed to classify routine computing behavior as problematic. (Snead's Expert Rep. ¶¶ 50, 52, Dkt. No. 125-6.) SpeedyPC argues that Snead's opinions, as reflected in his report and deposition testimony, fail to meet the requirements of Rule 702 because (1) Snead is not qualified to render the opinions proffered, and (2) Snead's opinions were rendered based on a deficient methodology and therefore do not satisfy the reliability standards of Rule 702.

         A. Qualifications to Render Opinions

         Despite SpeedyPC's protests, the Court determines that Snead is qualified “as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education” to render the proffered opinions. Fed.R.Evid. 702. Snead is an experienced software developer with a bachelor's degree in Information Engineering from the University of Cincinnati. (Snead's Expert Rep. ¶ 3, Dkt. No. 125-6.) Since graduating in 2004, he has worked as a software developer. (Id.) He represents that he is experienced in software-code analysis for litigation and that he has worked in designing, developing, and maintaining a variety of security software products. (Ex. 1 to Snead's Expert Rep. at 28 of 29, Dkt. No. 125-6.)

         SpeedyPC complains that Snead is not a “computer forensics expert” but does not at all explain why knowledge of computer forensics is required for Snead's opinions. (Def.'s Mot. to Bar Pl.'s Expert at 5, Dkt. No. 143.) On the Court's review of Snead's expert report, Snead's ...


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