Food Expert Witness Testimony Allowed

Plaintiff filed suit against defendants related to product labeling.  Defendant hired a Food Expert Witness to provide testimony.  Plaintiff filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.  The court denied the motion to exclude.

Facts:  This case (Hilsley v. Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. et al – United States District Court – Southern District of California – June 24th, 2019) involves a class action claim.  The plaintiff claims that the labels on the defendants products are false and misleading because they contain artificial flavoring ingredients.  The defendant has hired Food Expert Witness Paula Lent to provide testimony.  The plaintiff has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  The plaintiff argues that Lent is not qualified to to provide an opinion on the subject matter contained in her report and that her opinions are not the product of reliable principles and methods.  The defendants reply that Lent has numerous years of experience at working for the defendant which qualifies her an expert and that the plaintiff’s arguments should go to the weight of the of testimony, and not the admissibility.

The plaintiff alleges that Lent lacks specialized knowledge and is not qualified to provide expert opinions about the functions of malic and fumaric acids in the products at issue.  The defendants argue that Lent has specialized knowledge from her education and that she has seventeen years of practical experience within the food and beverage industry in research and development roles.

The court notes that for the past year has been the Senior Manager, Global Product Development, Food and Beverages for the defendant.  In addition, Lent “supervises a team of scientists that collaborate with other teams within Ocean Spray to formulate new products and modify existing products so that its portfolio of beverages remains relevant to consumers and meets the quality, nutrition and overall consumer satisfaction.”

The plaintiff argues that Lent has been employed merely as a Manager and Senior Manager for the defendant for the past eight years.  They argue that this does not translate to qualify her as an expert on the functions of chemical additives.

The plaintiff also alleges that Lent’s opinions are not based on reliable principles and methods and are only based on her personal experience as an employee of the defendant.  The plaintiff argues that her opinions are purely speculative and have little or no analysis.  The defendant replies that Lent’s opinion is predicated on what she learned about the defendant’s own processes and procedures based on her years of work.

The court opines that Lent’s opinions should not be classified as “expert”, but lay opinions.  The court opines that Lent’s testimony is based on her perceptions and personal knowledge while working for the defendant.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Paula Lent is denied.