CASH et al.
LG ELECTRONICS, INC. et al.
MILLER, P. J., DOYLE and REESE, JJ.
MILLER, PRESIDING JUDGE.
case involves a tragic fire at the home of appellant Debbie
Cash, which resulted in the death of Cash's husband and
son. Cash and her surviving daughter filed suit against LG
Electronics, Inc. alleging, among other claims, strict
liability and negligence. Cash claims that the LG television
in her living room was the cause of the fire, and in support
she submitted the expert testimony of an engineer who
attempted to recreate the origin of the fire. Upon LG's
motion, the trial court excluded the expert's testimony,
finding that the expert's opinion was not based on
sufficient facts or reliable principles and methods, as
required by Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals,
Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469)
(1993). After excluding Cash's causation expert, the
trial court granted summary judgment to LG based on the lack
of competent and admissible evidence that there was a defect
in the television that caused the fire. This appeal followed,
and after a thorough review of the record, we affirm.
evidence in this case shows that, on the morning of July 6,
2011, Cash's son woke up and went into the living room to
watch TV. He then came into Cash's room and told Cash and
her husband that the house was on fire. When Cash looked in
the living room, she saw green-black smoke and that the
entire entertainment center was on fire. When she and her
husband were unable to extinguish the fire, Cash exited the
house. Believing that her husband and son had already
escaped, Cash went to a window and pulled her daughter out.
Once Cash realized her husband and son were trapped in the
house, the fire was too extensive for her to rescue them. Mr.
Cash died in the house. Fire fighters pulled Cash's son
from the house, but he subsequently died at the hospital.
an investigation, the Gwinnett County fire department
determined that the fire started in the vicinity of the
entertainment center, but they were unable to determine the
exact origin of the fire. Cash's expert opined that an
internal component in the television's power supply board
failed due to a manufacturing defect or mechanical damage,
triggering a chain reaction that caused a fire.
argues that the trial court erred in excluding her
expert's testimony because his methods were reliable and
his testimony was based on sufficient facts and data. We
expert testimony ought to be admitted under [OCGA §
24-7-702] is a question committed to the sound discretion of
the trial court." (Citation omitted.) Scapa Dryer
Fabrics, Inc. v. Knight, 299 Ga. 286, 289 (788 S.E.2d
421) (2016). We will not disturb the trial court's
determination "absent a manifest abuse of
discretion." Mason v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc.,
283 Ga. 271, 279 (5) (658 S.E.2d 603) (2008).
§ 24-7-702 governs the admissibility of expert
testimony, and it requires that the trial court act as
"gatekeeper to ensure the relevance and reliability of
expert testimony." (Citation and punctuation omitted.)
Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc., supra, 299 Ga. at 289.
The statute specifically provides:
If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will
assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to
determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert
by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may
testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if:
(1) The testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data; (2)
The testimony is the product of reliable principles and
methods; and (3) The witness has applied the
principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case
which have been or will be admitted into evidence before the
trier of fact.
(Emphasis supplied.) OCGA § 24-7-702 (b)
in interpreting and applying this Code section, the courts of
this state may draw from the opinions of the United States
Supreme Court in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals,
Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993); General Electric Co. v.
Joiner, 522 U.S. 136 (1997); Kumho Tire Co. Ltd. v.
Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999); and other cases in
federal courts applying the standards announced by the United
States Supreme Court in these cases.
OCGA § 24-7-702 (f). The trial court has
"substantial discretion in deciding how to test an
expert's reliability." (Citation omitted.)
Butler v. Union Carbide Corp., 310 Ga.App. 21, 26
(1) (712 S.E.2d 537) (2011). The party seeking to rely on the
expert bears the burden of proving the expert is sufficiently
admit expert testimony under OCGA § 24-7-702, the trial
court must consider: (a) the qualifications of the expert;
(b) the reliability of the testimony; and (c) the relevance
of the testimony. Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc., supra,
299 Ga. at 289. These are three distinct factors, and courts
should be careful not to conflate them. Quiet Technology
DC-8, Inc. v. Hurel-Dubois UK, Ltd., 326 F.3d 1333, 1341
(II) (A) (11th Cir. 2003). The trial court in this case
focused solely on the reliability of the expert's
testing, and accordingly, we do as well.
[G]enerally, reliability is examined through consideration of
many factors, including whether a theory or technique can be
tested, whether it has been subjected to peer review and
publication, the known or potential rate of error for the
theory or technique, the general degree of acceptance in the
relevant scientific or ...