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Wallake Power System, LLC v. Engine Distributors, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

December 16, 2019

Wallake Power System, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
Engine Distributors, Inc. and Jerry Kosner, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JAMES L. GRAHAM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I.

         Plaintiff Wallake Power System, LLC, d/b/a Graham Ford, Inc., brought this diversity action against defendants Engine Distributors, Inc. (EDI) and Jerry Kosner for defamation, tortious interference with a business relationship, and a violation of the Ohio Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

         The first stage of a bifurcated jury trial was held from December 9 to December 12, 2019. In the first stage, the jury found in favor of plaintiff on all three claims on the issue of liability. The case then proceeded to a damages stage. Plaintiff first called Chris Wallake, the owner and of sole proprietor of Graham Ford, as a fact witness. After Mr. Wallake's examination, plaintiff indicated that it would offer no other lay witnesses and was prepared to call its damages expert, Glenn Sheets.

         At that point, on December 13, the Court conducted a Daubert hearing. Defendants had filed a pretrial motion to exclude Mr. Sheets from testifying at trial on the ground that his opinions would not be supported by the facts in the record. The Court had reserved a ruling on the motion until plaintiff had offered into evidence at trial all facts in support of its claim for damages. During the hearing, counsel for both parties were afforded to opportunity to examine Mr. Sheets. Additionally, the Court posed numerous questions of Mr. Sheets. The parties submitted legal arguments on the matter through pretrial briefs.

         Upon full consideration of the parties' arguments, the applicable law, the evidentiary record developed at trial, and the proffered testimony and Report of Mr. Sheets, the Court GRANTS defendants' motion to exclude the testimony of Mr. Sheets. As discussed below, the Court concludes that the opinions of Mr. Sheets lack a foundation in the factual record and that his methodology does not reliably fit the facts of the case.

         II.

         The trial court serves as a gatekeeper to ensure that expert testimony is both reliable and relevant. Federal Rule of Evidence 702 provides:

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.

         In Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), the Supreme Court held that the trial court must “ensure that any and all scientific testimony or evidence admitted is not only relevant, but reliable.” Daubert, 509 U.S. at 589. This gatekeeping obligation applies to all expert testimony. Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 141 (1999)

         An expert opinion must be grounded in a reliable method and procedure. It must be “more than subjective belief or unsupported speculation.” Daubert, 509 U.S. at 590. The “[p]roposed testimony must be supported by appropriate validation-i.e., ‘good grounds,' based on what is known.” Id.

         Rule 702 additionally requires that the testimony assist the trier of fact “to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.” Fed.R.Evid. 702(a). The issue of “fit” is “not always obvious, and scientific validity for one purpose is not necessarily scientific validity for other, unrelated purposes.” Daubert, 509 U.S at 591.

         When faced with the proffer of expert testimony, the trial court “must determine whether the expert is proposing to testify to (1) scientific knowledge that (2) will assist the trier of fact to understand or determine a fact in issue.” Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592 (footnote omitted). “This entails a preliminary assessment of whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is scientifically valid and of whether that reasoning or methodology properly can be applied to the facts in issue.” Id. at 592-93. “[T]he proponent of ...


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