Summary: Lithium Ion Battery Fires Expert Witness testimony allowed in part because the defendant argued correctly that a duplicate product was not used for testing.
Facts: This case (Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company v. Hewlett-Packard Company United States District Court – Western District of Washington – September 5 2023) involves a fire that caused damage to an apartment complex in Everett Washington. The plaintiff insurance company sued defendant Hewlett-Packard claiming that the fire was caused by an internal failure of a lithium-ion battery in a laptop that was in the apartment. The plaintiff hired Lithium Ion Battery Fires Expert Witness Michael Eskra to provide testimony. The defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.
Discussion: The court notes that Mr. Eskra has over 30 years of experience in the power source and battery industry and has published numerous articles on battery systems. The court also states that Mr. Eskra opined that the fire was caused by a lithium-ion battery cell in the laptop.
The defendant argues that Mr. Eskra’s expert witness opinion that the the fire was caused by the defendant’s failure to utilize a System Management Bus (“SMBus”) and the battery management system in laptop caused the fire should be excluded because he is not an SMBus expert. The court disagrees, stating that Mr. Eskra showed in his report that he has enough experience to opine on the basic functions of the SMBus.
In addition, the defendant states that Mr. Eskra’s opinions that Cell 2 suffered a mechanical defect and caused the fire should be excluded because that was ruled out as a cause. The court notes that Cell 2 was not ruled out and opined that this portion of the expert opinion is admissible.
Last, the defendant argues that Mr. Eskra’s opinion is unreliable because he did not ensure that the exemplar laptop and battery pack he used for testing were actual duplicates of the laptop components. The court agrees, stating that in product liability cases, an duplicate product should be the one tested.
Conclusion: The motion to exclude the expert witness opinion of Michael Eskra is granted in part and denied in part.