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Brown v. Electrolux Home Products, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

July 10, 2017

ROBERT BROWN, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
ELECTROLUX HOME PRODUCTS, INC. d/b/a FRIGIDAIRE, Defendant.

          ORDER

          HON. LISA GODBEV WOOD, JUDGE

         The Court gave Plaintiff Robert Brown the chance to show that mold, mildew, and odors were likely to be problems throughout the thousands of washing machines that could be covered by his proposed class. Dkt. No. 224. Brown located two alleged experts. Dr. Donald J. Reinhardt, a microbiologist, concluded that the problem "would be more or less universal"-based on mold samples taken from inside Brown's washing machine, which had been sitting unused for six years, most recently in storage. Joseph Manna, a washing-machine technician, said the problem will be universal, based on his experience working on 40 or 50 machines.

         Defendant Electrolux Home Products, Inc.'s ("Electrolux") motions to exclude these opinions, dkt. nos. 235, 238, will be GRANTED for the reasons below.

         BACKGROUND

         Electrolux makes Frigidaire front-loading washing machines. Dkt. No. 224 at 1. These have rubber seals, or "bellows, " to stop water leaks. Id. Frigidaires originally used "a convoluted bellow, which is not as smooth as the S-shaped bellow that is now available." Id. at 1-2. Brown bought a Frigidaire machine with convoluted bellows. Id. at 2. He claims convoluted bellows trap water, causing mildew, mold, and odors. Id. He found mildew in his machine. Id.

         He brought suit. Id. He moved for class certification. Dkt. No. 158. This Court granted it. Dkt. No. 201. The Eleventh Circuit vacated and remanded. Brown v. Electrolux Home Prods., Inc., 817 F.3d 1225 (11th Cir. 2016). Brown renewed his motion. Dkt. No. 219. The Court denied it, but opened discovery as to whether the defect Brown alleged is likely to manifest throughout his proposed class. Dkt. No. 224. Electrolux now moves to exclude two of the purported experts Brown has secured. Dkt. Nos. 235, 238. The parties have briefed the motions, which are now ripe for disposition. Dkt. Nos. 246-47, 252-53.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if: (a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue; (b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data; (c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and (d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

Fed. R. Evid. 702.

         Under this Rule, "the trial judge must ensure that any and all [expert] testimony or evidence admitted is reliable." Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993). "Proposed testimony must be supported by appropriate validation-i.e., *good grounds, ' based on what is known." Id. at 590.

In certain cases, it will be appropriate for the trial judge to ask, for example, how often an engineering expert's experience-based methodology has produced erroneous results, or whether such a method is generally accepted in the relevant engineering community. Likewise, it will at times be useful to ask even of a witness whose expertise is based purely on experience . . . whether his preparation is of a kind that others in the field would recognize as acceptable.

Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 151 (1999).

         "The inquiry envisioned by Rule 702 is . . .a flexible one. Its overarching subject is the . . . validity ... of the principles that underlie a proposed submission." Daubert, 509 U.S. at 594-95. "The objective of that requirement . . . is to make certain that an expert, whether basing testimony upon professional studies or personal experience, employs in the courtroom the same level of intellectual rigor that characterizes the practice of an expert in the relevant field." Kumho Tire Co., 526 U.S. at 152. To that end, the court asks whether:

(1) [T]he expert is qualified to testify competently regarding the matters he intends to address; (2) the methodology by which the expert reaches his conclusions is sufficiently reliable as determined by the sort of inquiry mandated in Daubert; and (3) the testimony assists the trier of fact, through the application of scientific, technical, ...

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