Forensic Engineering Expert Witness Testimony Allowed.

Plaintiff filed suit against defendant after a water heater failed.  Plaintiff hired a Forensic Engineering Expert Witness to provide testimony in this case.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert witness testimony, which was denied by the court.

Facts: This case (AIG PROPERTY CASUALTY COMPANY v. A.O. SMITH CORPORATION – United States District Court – District of New Jersey – August 30th, 2018) involves a product liability claim.  The plaintiff insured the personal and real property of Angelo Fraggos.  In May 2016, Fraggos’s hot water heater failed and caused a lot of damage to his property.  The plaintiff then hired Forensic Engineering Expert Witness Michial Jacob to examine the water heater to determine the cause of the leak.  After submitting his report, the defendant filed a motion to exclude Jacob from testifying as an expert.

Discussion: Jacob opines that the water heater tank failed because of a defect in the glass liner.  This failure allowed the tank to corrode and rust, and that the defect existed while the tank was in the defendant’s control.  Jacob continues by opining that if the glass coating had been properly applied to the inside of the water heater during manufacturing, the water heater would not have become corroded, and the water loss would not have occurred.

The defendant argues that Jacob is not qualified to testify regarding the design and manufacturing of the water heater because he does not have any experience in designing or manufacturing water heaters.  In addition, they allege that he has never been deposed as an expert witness in court and has never written any articles regarding water heater design or manufacturing.  The plaintiff states that Jacob has been a licensed engineer for 10 years and has worked in facilities that design, research, and develop mechanical components.

The court opines that Jacob is sufficiently qualified to offer expert witness testimony in this case.  His education, training, knowledge, and experience satisfies the Daubert requirement.  Also, his experience as an engineer, specifically performing failure analyses on products that leaked water shows that he is qualified.

In addition, the defendant argues that Jacob’s report is not reliable because he can’t say whether the defect was due to a manufacturing or design defect.  The plaintiff replies that Jacob examined the water heater two times and reviewed over 1,700 pages of technical documents to reach his conclusions.  He also eliminated other potential causes of the defect.  The plaintiff also states that Jacob arrived at his conclusions using scientific methods and standard engineering principles set forth by ATSM.   Thus, the court ruled that Jacob’s opinions are ground in reliable methodology rather than subjective belief and are thus admissible.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Michial Jacob is denied.