United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division
O. Hickey United States District Judge
the Court is Defendant Ridge Tool Company's Motion to
Exclude the Testimony of Plaintiff's Expert, Mr. Don R.
Johnston. (ECF No. 34). Plaintiff Bubba McLelland filed a
response. (ECF No. 46). Defendant filed a reply. (ECF No.
48). The Court finds the matter ripe for consideration.
products liability case arises from an accident that occurred
in Lewisville, Arkansas, on February 15, 2014. Defendant
manufactures the Ridgid K-750 Drain Cleaning Machine
(“K-750”), a drum-style cleaning machine used by
professionals for cleaning drain pipes. Plaintiff, a master
plumber, alleges that while operating a K-750 to clear a
clogged drain line in Lewisville, Arkansas, the cable broke
without warning and struck him in the face, causing injuries
and damages. Plaintiff asserts three strict product liability
claims against Defendant: failure to warn, manufacturing
defect, and design defect.
October 24, 2017, Plaintiff disclosed Don R. Johnston as his
liability expert. On February 13, 2018, Defendant took Mr.
Johnston's deposition. In short, Mr. Johnston opines that
Defendant was aware of the K-750's issue with breaking
cables and that other models of drain cleaning machines
manufactured by Defendant feature either a cable-control
system to prevent breaks or audible and visual warning
indicators to warn the operator of an impending break. (ECF
No. 35-1). Mr. Johnston states that Defendant could have
prevented Plaintiff's injuries by implementing either of
these alternative safety features on the K-750, but that it
failed to do so.
11, 2018, Defendant filed the instant motion. Defendant
argues that the Court should exclude the testimony and
opinions of Mr. Johnston on various grounds. Specifically,
Defendant argues that Mr. Johnston is unqualified to serve as
an expert witness in this case, that Mr. Johnston's
methodology is unreliable and is not scientific, and that Mr.
Johnston's opinions are so speculative that they would
not assist the jury. Plaintiff opposes the motion.
the duty of the Court to decide “any preliminary
question about whether . . . evidence is admissible.”
Fed.R.Evid. 104(a). The Court's starting point for
determining the admissibility of expert testimony is Federal
Rule of Evidence 702, which provides a three-part test:
First, evidence based on scientific, technical, or other
specialized knowledge must be useful to the finder of fact in
deciding the ultimate issue of fact. This is the basic rule
of relevancy. Second, the proposed witness must be qualified
to assist the finder of fact. Third, the proposed evidence
must be reliable or trustworthy in an evidentiary sense, so
that, if the finder of fact accepts it as true, it provides
the assistance the finder of fact requires.
Lauzon v. Senco Prods., Inc., 270 F.3d 681, 686 (8th
Cir. 2001) (internal citations and quotations omitted). The
United States Supreme Court has emphasized the district
court's gatekeeper role when screening expert testimony
for relevance and reliability. Daubert v. Merrell Dow
Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 591-93 (1993).
testimony is inadmissible only if it is speculative,
unsupported by sufficient facts, or contrary to the facts of
the case. Concord Boat Corp. v. Brunswick Corp., 207
F.3d 1039, 1056-57 (8th Cir. 2000). When analyzing an
expert's testimony, the court must focus on the
principles and methodology employed by the expert, and not on
the conclusions generated by the expert. Daubert,
509 U.S. at 594. “Courts should resolve doubts
regarding the usefulness of an expert's testimony in
favor of admissibility.” Marmo v. Tyson Fresh
Meats, Inc., 457 F.3d 748, 758 (8th Cir. 2006); see
also Polski v. Quigley Corp., 538 F.3d 836, 838 (8th
Cir. 2008) (“Rule 702 reflects an attempt to liberalize
the rules governing the admission of expert testimony. The
rule clearly is one of admissibility rather than
exclusion.”). “Only if the expert's opinion
is so fundamentally unsupported that it can offer no
assistance to the jury must such testimony be
excluded.” Bonner v. ISP Techs, Inc., 259 F.3d
924, 929-30 (8th Cir. 2001).
discussed above, Defendant argues that the Court should
exclude Mr. Johnston's opinions and testimony because he
is unqualified to serve as an expert witness in this case,
his methodology is unreliable and is not scientific, and his
opinions are so speculative that they would not assist the
jury. The Court will address each of these arguments in turn.
Qualification to Serve as Expert
argues that Mr. Johnston is unqualified to serve as an expert
witness in this matter. Specifically, Defendant argues that
Mr. Johnston does not possess the knowledge, skill,
experience, training, or education required to testify as an
expert under ...