Electrical Engineering Expert Witness Testimony Not Allowed in House Fire Case

Electrical Engineering Expert Witness not allowed to provide testimony as the expert admitted that he did not perform any calculations.

Facts: This case (Mutersbaugh, et al. v. General Electric, Inc. – United States District Court – Northern District of Ohio – March 28th, 2019) involves a fire at a residence.  Five residents of a house died when a fire burned down a residence in Akron, Ohio.  The decedents and one of the survivors filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that the cause of the fire was a defective GE gas stove.  The plaintiffs allege claims of common law negligence, design defect, manufacturing defect, and failure to warn.  The plaintiffs have hired Electrical Engineering Expert Witness Samuel Sero to provide testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  In his report, Sero opines that heat from the rear burner of the stove over time degraded the gasket in the gas regulator.  Further, he states that this degradation led to a gas leak that was eventually ignited through normal use of the stove burner.

The court opines that Sero’s opinion should be excluded for many reasons.  First, the court notes, his opinion does not allow for any form of testing or review.  In fact, Sero admitted that he had not done any calculations to support his opinions.  In addition, he also admitted that he had not done any modeling and admitted that he had done no sketches.

The court looks back to another case in which Sero was called as an expert.  In that case (Buck v. Ford Motor Company). Sero’s opinion on general causation was unreliable because his methodology was not reliably applied, his theory was untested, and his theory had not been submitted to peer review or publication.  In addition. that court noted that Sero does not describe what he did, how he did it, and what, if any controls he used.

The court notes that, in this case, Sero found a failed component, and then formulated a theory of causation that would lead back to that failed component.  The court opines, however, that Sero did not use any scientific methodology to reach his conclusions.

Last, the court opines  that it is hard to comprehend how Sero could opine on the failure of a gasket and gas regulator valve without ever physically examining them.  Instead, Sero looked at pictures of those components.  In addition, the court opines that Sero never tested his theories on similar components and he does not adequately explain why this testing could not be done.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Samuel Sero is granted.