Combustion Engineering Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Emissions Case

Summary: Combustion Engineering Expert Witness testimony allowed even though the defendants argued that his opinions were unreliable based on his reliance of conclusions of one problem vehicle.

Facts:  This case (Counts, et al. v. General Motors, LLC – United States District Court – Eastern District of Michigan – June 9th, 2022) involves a claim by consumers who purchased a 2014 or 2015 Chevrolet Cruze diesel from the defendant.  The plaintiffs allege that they overpaid for their vehicles because they were tricked into purchasing a Cruze with “defeat devices” that made its emissions comply with numerous state and federal regulations.  The plaintiffs claim that their Cruze vehicles emit dangerous amounts of oxides of nitrogen, which exceed state and federal emission standards.   The plaintiffs hired Combustion Engineering Expert Witness Juston Smithers to provide expert witness testimony in this case.  General Motors has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion: The defendant argues that Smithers’s testimony should be excluded because they are unreliable.  They claim that Smithers opinions are taken from one problematic vehicle, his opinions do not “fit” the issues in this case, he ignored inconvenient facts, and that he opined on prior-generation vehicles.

The court states that Smithers’s testimony that he relied on a PEMS test of one vehicle meets industry standards.  To be sure, the court states that General Motors also tested a single vehicle when it obtained a Certificate of Conformity.   The court also notes that the single vehicle PEMS test was requested by a General Motors “internal review board” which governs its compliance policy for vehicle emissions.  In addition, the court also opines that Smithers conducted hundreds of PEMS tests as part of his research.

The court also states that Smithers testing also “fits” the specific issues in this case.  In addition, Smithers also compared the diesel Cruze to the 1973 Chevy Vega, which is challenged by the defendant.  The court states, however, that General Motors did not identify a reason that would justify excluding this Cruze-Vega comparison.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Juston Smithers is denied.