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Vazquez v. The Raymond Corporation

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Gainesville Division

January 11, 2019

THE RAYMOND CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Cathlin Vinett Mitchell as an Expert [Doc. No. 96], Defendants' Motion to Exclude the Testimony of Ruston Hunt [Doc. No. 97], Defendants' Motion to Exclude the Testimony of Jason Kerrigan [Doc. No. 98], Defendants' Motion to Exclude the Testimony of Thomas Berry [Doc. No. 99], Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">100], and Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Surreply [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">163].

         I. Factual Background

         This is a product liability action in which Plaintiff seeks to hold Defendant Raymond Corporation and Defendant Carolina Handling responsible for injuries he sustained in an accident on July 28, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16, while he was operating a Raymond 4250 Stand-Up Counterbalanced list truck (“4250 forklift”) in the course of his employment at a Continental Tire Warehouse in Gainesville, Georgia. Defendant Raymond designed, manufactured, marketed, and sold the 4250 forklift to Defendant Carolina Handling. In turn, Defendant Carolina Handling rented the 4250 forklift to DHL, the logistics provider at the Continental Tire Warehouse.

         Plaintiff Vazquez was employed by Randstad, a temporary labor provider used by DHL to provide employees to Continental Tire. At the time of the accident, Plaintiff was using the 4250 forklift to pick up a full pallet of tires. He was traveling tractor first (or “forks trailing”) when he turned to speak with another employee while the forklift was still moving. When he did so, he lost control of the forklift and crashed into a metal column. Plaintiff's left foot was crushed because it was outside of the operator compartment at the time of the collision.

         On January 31');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17, Plaintiff filed this action [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1]. He asserts three causes of action: (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1) a design defect claim against Defendant Raymond; (2) a manufacturing defect and failure to warn claim against Defendant Raymond; and (3) a negligence claim against Defendant Carolina Handling for failing to suggest to DHL that it purchase necessary safety options for the forklift. Plaintiff seeks punitive damages against Defendant Raymond. Defendants have now moved for summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims [Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">100].

         II. Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Cathlin Vinett Mitchell as an Expert [Doc. No. 96]

         Plaintiff has moved to strike Cathlin Vinett Mitchell as an expert because he contends that Defendants' initial Rule 26 disclosure did not comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(B). Disclosures under Rule 26(a)(2)(B) are necessary to allow the opposing party “a reasonable opportunity to prepare for effective cross examination.” Jacobsen v. Desert Book Co., 287 F.3d 936, 953 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">10th Cir. 2002). The list of cases in which an expert has previously testified should include the court and the case number. See Nguyen v. IBP, Inc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">162 F.R.D. 675, 682 (D.Kan.1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1995); Baca v. Depot Sales, LLC., No. 06-CV-71');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14-EWN-PAC, 2007 WL 951');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">163, at *1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 (D. Colo. Mar. 27, 2007). Defendants' failure to include this information in the initial disclosure constitutes a violation of Rule 26.

         However, the Court notes that Defendants acted quickly to remedy this failure, and Plaintiff now has an updated list of prior testimony, complete with the case caption, court name, and civil action number that Plaintiff complains was initially lacking. This was done well in advance of Mitchell's deposition. Plaintiff has not been harmed or prejudiced. Under these circumstances, an award of fees and expenses is not justified. His Motion to Strike [Doc. No. 96] is DENIED.

         III. Defendants' Motion to Exclude the Testimony of Ruston Hunt [Doc. No. 97]

         Defendants have moved to exclude the testimony of Dr. Ruston Hunt. Defendants contend that Dr. Hunt should not be allowed to testify because he lacks the qualifications necessary to give opinion testimony and because his opinions are unreliable.

         A. Daubert Standard

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 governs the admissibility of proposed expert evidence:

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.

         The trial court, as the gate-keeper, must determine that the testimony is “sufficiently tied to the facts of the case that it will aid the jury in resolving a factual dispute.” Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., 509 U.S. 579, 591');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1993) (quoting United States v . Downing, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1224');">753 F.2d 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1224, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1242 (3d Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1985)). The trial court must also “make certain that an expert . . . employs in the courtroom the same level of intellectual rigor that characterizes the practice of an expert in the relevant field.” Kumho Tire Co. Ltd. v. Carmichel, 526 U.S. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">137, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">152 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1999). The Eleventh Circuit has synthesized the existing rules into a three-part inquiry, instructing courts to consider whether: (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1) the 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, or specialized expertise, to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue. City of Tuscaloosa v. Harcros Chemicals, Inc., 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">158 F.3d 548, 562 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1998), reh'g and reh'g en banc denied, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">172 F.3d 884');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">172 F.3d 884 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1999).

         With respect to the reliability of expert testimony, relevant factors include “(1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1) whether the expert's theory can be and has been tested; (2) whether the theory has been subjected to peer review and publication; (3) the known or potential rate of error of the particular scientific technique; and (4) whether the technique is generally accepted in the scientific community.” U.S. v. Frazier, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1244');">387 F.3d 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1244, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1262 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1th Cir. 2004) (quoting Quiet Tech. DC-8, Inc. v. Hurel-Dubois UK Ltd., 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1333');">326 F.3d 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1333, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1340 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1th Cir. 2003)). “These factors are illustrative, not exhaustive; not all of them will apply in every case, and in some cases other factors will be equally important in evaluating the reliability of proffered expert opinion.” Id. It is important to note that “expert testimony that does not meet all or most of the Daubert factors may sometimes be admissible.” U.S. v. Brown, 41');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15 F.3d 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1257, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1268 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1th Cir. 2005). The Court will address Dr. Hunt's qualifications and then his opinions in turn.

         B. Dr. Hunt's Qualifications

         Dr. Hunt is clearly qualified to testify generally as a human factors and warnings expert.

He has a bachelor's and master's degree in industrial engineering and a PhD. In mechanical engineering. At both the undergraduate and graduate level, he has taught courses dealing with human factors, engineering design and analysis, and human interaction with machinery. Hunt has served as an expert in numerous cases and offered opinions concerning human reaction time and the viability of warnings.

Hernandez v. Crown Equipment Corp., 92 F.Supp.3d 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1325, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1350 (M.D. Ga. 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15).

         But Dr. Hunt is not qualified to offer design defect opinions. The record in this case does not indicate that Dr. Hunt has training, education, or experience in designing forklifts or similar products. He has never designed a forklift or any component thereof. He is not and has never been a member of any committee which authors safety standards for stand-up forklifts. He has never been employed by or consulted with a forklift manufacturer. He has done no independent work, including tests, surveys, or photography, to support his opinion that adding a latching and interlocked rear operator guard as standard equipment is an appropriate design for a stand-up forklift. As a result, Dr. Hunt is clearly not qualified to testify regarding design defects.

         C. Dr. Hunt's First Opinion

         First, Dr. Hunt opines:

Because of the ability to guard or design out the collision injury danger with a safety door, Raymond should not use warnings but instead it should change the design and guarding to protect users from the hazard of collisions and the risk of leg crush injuries.

[Doc. No. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 32]. The Court finds that Dr. Hunt may testify regarding his opinion that Raymond should not use warnings because it should change the design, relying on the opinion of ...

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