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Evans v. IMO Industries, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

July 19, 2019

JOHANNA ELAINE EVANS, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of ICOM HENRY EVANS, deceased, and on behalf of all Wrongful Death Beneficiaries, Plaintiffs,
v.
IMO INDUSTRIES, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          SHERRY R. FALLON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Presently before the court in this asbestos litigation is the partial motion to exclude the testimony of Plaintiff s proffered expert, Captain Arnold Moore, filed by defendant John Crane, Inc. ("JCI"). (D.I. 274) For the following reasons, JCI's motion to exclude is granted-in-part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         Icom Henry Evans ("Mr. Evans") and Johanna Elaine Evans ("Plaintiff) filed this asbestos-related personal injury action in the Delaware Superior Court against multiple defendants on June 11, 2015, alleging injuries suffered by Mr. Evans due to asbestos exposure. (D.I. 1 at ¶ 1) On August 4, 2015, the case was removed to this court by defendant Foster Wheeler Energy Corporation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1442(a)(1)[1] and 1446. (D.I. 1) On October 7, 2016, JCI filed its motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of punitive damages. (D.I. 143) In a Report and Recommendation issued on August 30, 2017, the undersigned judicial officer recommended the denial of JCI's motion. (D.I. 213) The District Judge adopted the Report and Recommendation on September 26, 2017. (D.I. 216)

         Mr. Evans died of mesothelioma on March 30, 2018. (D.I. 235 at ¶ 5) On August 17, 2018, Plaintiff filed the first amended complaint. (D.I. 235) Plaintiff served Rule 26(a)(2) expert disclosures and reports on December 6, 2018, including the expert report of Captain Arnold Moore. (D.I. 246) Captain Moore was deposed on April 26, 2019. (D.I. 278, Ex. 4) A four-day jury trial is scheduled to begin on August 20, 2019. (7/18/19 Oral Order)

         B. Facts

         Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Evans developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos-containing products during the course of his employment as a fireman and boiler tender with the U.S. Navy from 1957 to 1967. (D.I. 235 at ¶ 5(a)) Specifically, Plaintiff contends that Mr. Evans was injured due to exposure to asbestos-containing gaskets and packing that were manufactured, sold, distributed, licensed, or installed by JCI. (Id. at ¶¶ 5(a), 8) Accordingly, Plaintiff asserts a number of causes of action against JCI, including wrongful death, negligence, strict liability, failure to warn, punitive damages, and loss of consortium claims. (Id. at ¶¶ 4-39)

         Captain Arnold Moore is an engineer who began his career with the Navy in 1968 after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy with a major in Naval Science and a minor in Naval Architecture. (D.I. 275, Ex. 1 at 1-2) Captain Moore studied Naval Ship Design and Construction at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he coordinated overhauls of vessels at the Charleston Naval Shipyard. (Id. at 2) Captain Moore resigned from his active Navy commission in 1979 and entered the Naval Reserve as an Engineering Duty Officer. (Id.) Following his resignation from the Navy, he worked for Ingalls Shipbuilding and Northrop Grumman as an engineering executive for all aspects of naval ship design. (Id.) He retired in 2007 and subsequently began consulting as an expert witness in marine engineering in asbestos litigation. (D.I. 278, Ex. 1 at 1)

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Motions to exclude evidence are committed to the court's discretion. See In re Paoli R.R. Yard PCB Litig., 35 F.3d 717, 749 (3d Cir. 1994). The admissibility of expert testimony is a question of law governed by Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence and the Supreme Court's decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). In Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 597 (1993), the Supreme Court explained that Federal Rule of Evidence 702 creates "a gatekeeping role for the [trial] judge" to "ensur[e] that an expert's testimony both rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand." The Rule requires that expert testimony "help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue." Fed.R.Evid. 702(a). Expert testimony is admissible only if "the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data," "the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods," and "the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case." Fed.R.Evid. 702(b)-(d); see Elcock v. Kmart Corp., 233 F.3d 734, 741-46 (3d Cir. 2000). "[A]ny step that renders the [expert's] analysis unreliable under the Daubert factors renders the expert's testimony inadmissible." In re Paoli, 35 F.3d at 745.

         The Third Circuit has explained that Rule 702 restricts testimony based on qualification, reliability, and fit. Schneider ex rel. Estate of Schneider v. Fried, 320 F.3d 396, 404 (3d Cir. 2003). To establish the adequacy of an expert's qualifications, the party proffering the witness must show that the expert possesses specialized knowledge. Paoli, 35 F.3d at 741. The Third Circuit construes the qualifications requirement liberally, explaining that "a broad range of knowledge, skills, and training qualify an expert as such." Id. "Rule 702's liberal policy of admissibility extends to the substantive as well as the formal qualification of experts." Id. Nonetheless, "the level of expertise may affect the reliability of the expert's opinion." Id.

         To establish the reliability of an expert's testimony, the party must show that the testimony is "based on the 'methods and procedures of science' rather than on 'subjective belief or unsupported speculation;' the expert must have 'good grounds' for his or her belief." Paoli, 35 F.3d at 742 (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 590). The expert's testimony must also be relevant for the purposes of the case and must assist the trier of fact. Schneider, 320 F.3d at 404. In Daubert, the Supreme Court explained that "Rule 702's 'helpfulness' standard requires a valid scientific connection to the pertinent inquiry as a precondition to admissibility." Daubert, 509 U.S. at 591-92.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Captain Moore's Qualifications

         1. Navy ...


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