Electrical Engineering Expert Witness Testimony Allowed In Part

Plaintiff sued defendant related to a fire at a dock.  Plaintiff hired an Electrical Engineering Expert Witness to provide testimony.  The defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.  The court granted the motion in part and denied the motion in part.

Facts:  This case (Certain Underwriters at Lloyds, London v. Pettit – United States District Court – Western District of Washington – October 15th, 2018) involves an insurance claim.  On October 14th. a fire broke out at a dock at the Shelter Bay Marina in La Conner, Washington.  One of the vessels destroyed by the fire was owned by the defendant.  Another of the damaged vessels was owned by the Shears.  The plaintiffs claim that the defendants vessel was the cause of the fire and are pursuing subrogated claims in this case against the defendant for damages incurred by other others of vessels moored at Shelter Bay Marina.  The plaintiffs hired Electrical Engineering Expert Witness Paul Way to provide testimony on their behalf.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this testimony.

Discussion:  The defendant argues that Mr. Way’s opinions that defects in the defendant’s power cord adapter were due to movement, corrosion, damage and improper maintenance.  The defendant alleges that Mr. Way stated that it was possible that the power cord was under tension and subject to movement, but there is no witness testimony to support this statement.  In addition, the defendant alleges that Mr. Way did not provide any evidence of any testing that shows the method used by Mr. Pettit caused tension or movement at the electrical connection between the power inlet and the power cord.

The defendant also argues that there is no evidence that any corrosion existed on the shore power cord, inlet, or adapter at the time of the fire and that he testified that he checked for corrosion when he checked on the vessel.

The defendant also argues that Mr. Way’s conclusion about improper maintenance, especially “unresolved electrical issues” was speculative and not based on any evidence.  The plaintiffs argue that their expert is qualified to provide expert testimony in this case and relied on enough evidence in reaching his conclusions.  The plaintiffs allege that no physical testing is required under National Fire Protection Association standards and that deductive reasoning can suffice as a manner to test a hypothesis.

The court opines that Mr. Way’s expert opinions that defects in Defendant’s power cord adapter were due to “movement, corrosion, damage and improper maintenance” are not admissible under Daubert.  In addition, the court opines that deductive reasoning alone cannot suffice where there is a lack of evidence that could support the conclusions reached.

All other issues in this cases go to the weight of the testimony and not the admissibility.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert opinion of Paul Way is granted in part and denied in part.