Professional Engineering Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Product Liability Lawsuit

Plaintiff filed suit against defendants involving a product liability claim.  The plaintiff hired a Professional Engineering Expert Witness to provide testimony.  The defendants have filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.  The court denied the motion to exclude.

Facts:  This case (Jones v. Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC et al – United States District Court – Middle District of Florida – March 19th, 2019) involves a products liability claim.  The plaintiff has sued the defendants for negligence and strict liability in the manufacture and design of a leaf blower which exploded while the plaintiff operated it.  The plaintiff has retained Dr. Bryan Durig (Professional Engineering Expert Witness) to provide testimony.

Discussion:  Dr. Durig employed the safety analysis known as the Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (“FMEA”), which is a step-by-step approach to identify all possible failures in a design, a manufacturing or assembly process, or a product or service.  He also considered other data and information.

The defendants wish to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Durig as unreliable because he performed no testing on the blower or on either proposed alternative design.  The plaintiff replies that Dr. Durig employed a reliable methodology to form his ultimate opinions.  The plaintiff also alleges that a lack of testing does not render his testimony as inadmissible.

The court opines that Dr. Durig’s opinion is that the blower is unreasonably dangerous because of a design defect.  The design defect at issue is that the plastic/polymer impeller it uses can fracture and then be ejected.  Dr. Durig identifies two ways to fix this defect:  1) the use of a metal impeller; or 2) making the impeller’s housing more robust by attaching a metal lining or ring to contain any small plastic pieces should an impeller fail.

The court opines that the FMEA is well-established within the field of engineering and that Dr. Durig’s methodology is sufficiently reliable to render his testimony admissible.  Thus, the court rejects the defendants’ argument that Dr. Durig’s alternative design opinions are not reliable.  In addition, the court notes that to classify Dr. Durig’s opinions as “alternative designs” is a misnomer, since his opinion centers on the hazard created by the plastic/polymer impeller.

Thus, Dr. Durig’s opinion and testimony is admissible under Daubert and that any arguments related to this issue are best done during cross-examination.

Conclusion: The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony Dr. Bryan Durig is denied.