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Univac Dental Co. v. Dentsply International

April 27, 2010

UNIVAC DENTAL COMPANY, AND LACTONA CORPORATION, PLAINTIFFS
v.
DENTSPLY INTERNATIONAL, INC., DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Christopher C. Conner United States District Judge

(Judge Conner)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the court are two motions in limine (Docs. 87, 97), filed by defendant, Dentsply International, Inc. ("Dentsply"), and the magistrate judge's report (Doc. 120) recommending that both motions (Docs. 87, 97) be denied. Dentsply claims that the expert testimony of Dr. Samuel J. Kursh ("Dr. Kursh") should be excluded because it is impermissibly unreliable. Dentsply alternatively argues that Dr. Kursh should not be allowed to testify to causation because it is outside the scope of his expertise and knowledge. The magistrate judge concluded that Dr. Kursh's expert testimony is admissible under Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Dentsply has filed objections to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation ("R&R"), and the parties have fully briefed the issues. For the reasons set forth below, the court will adopt the R&R.

I. Background*fn1

Plaintiffs in this matter seek damages for alleged financial injury that they suffered as a result of Dentsply's anti-competitive business practices. Plaintiffs seek to introduce the expert testimony of Dr. Kursh as evidence of their losses caused by Dentsply. Dentsply filed two motions in limine (Doc. 87, 97), objecting to Dr. Kursh's testimony. Dentsply claims that the foundation for his findings was insufficient and based on unreliable assumptions, and that Dr. Kursh's model for damages does not fit the facts presented in the instant case. The magistrate judge recommended that Dentsply's motions be denied, on the basis that Dr. Kursh's expert testimony is sufficiently reliable to be admitted into evidence at trial. See FED. R. EVID. 702. The magistrate judge held that Dentsply's objections are more directly related to the probative value of Dr. Kursh's testimony than to its admissibility.

II. Standard of Review

Where objections to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation are filed, the court must perform a de novo review of the contested portions of the report. Supinski v. United Parcel Serv., Civ. A. No. 06-0793, 2009 WL 113796, at *3 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 16, 2009) (citing Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n. 3 (3d Cir. 1989); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c)). "In this regard, Local Rule of Court 72.3 requires 'written objections which . . . specifically identify the portions of the proposed findings, recommendations or report to which objection is made and the basis for those objections.'" Id. (citing Shields v. Astrue, Civ. A. No. 07-417, 2008 WL 4186951, at *6 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 8, 2008)).

Where parties have not filed objections to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the Federal Magistrates Act does not require a district court to review the report before accepting it. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985). As a matter of good practice, however, the Third Circuit expects courts to "afford some level of review to dispositive legal issues raised by the report." Henderson v. Carlson, 812 F.2d 874, 878 (3d Cir. 1987). The advisory committee notes to Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure indicate that "[w]hen no timely objection is filed, the court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b), advisory committee notes; see also Tice v. Wilson, 425 F. Supp. 2d 676, 680 (W.D. Pa. 2006) (holding that the court's review is conducted under the "plain error" standard); Cruz v. Chater, 990 F. Supp. 375-78 (M.D. Pa. 1998) (holding that the court's review is limited to ascertaining whether there is "clear error on the face of the record"); Oldrati v. Apfel, 33 F. Supp. 2d 397, 399 (E.D. Pa. 1998) (holding that the court will review the report and recommendation for "clear error").

III. Discussion

A. Should the Court Exclude Dr. Kursh's Testimony?

The Federal Rules of Evidence provide that an expert may testify to "scientific, technical and other specialized knowledge" which "will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue[.]" FED. R. EVID. 702.

An individual who qualifies as an expert based on "knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education" may testify in the form of an opinion, so long as three requirements are satisfied: (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." Id. These requirements have been called the "trilogy of restrictions on expert testimony: qualification, reliability and fit." Calhoun v. Yamaha Motors Corp. U.S.A., 350 F.3d 316, 321 (3d. Cir. 2003). Undergirding these restrictions, however, is a "liberal policy of admissibility" under Rule 702. Pineda v. Ford Motor Co., 520 F.3d 237, 243 (3d Cir. 2008); see also FED. R. EVID. 401-402 (providing that "relevant evidence" is, as a general rule, admissible, and defining "relevant evidence" as "evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence."). In the instant case, Dentsply does not challenge Dr. Kursh's qualifications to testify as an expert witness. (See Doc. 130 at 6). Therefore, in the following sections, the court will analyze whether the requirements of reliability and fit are satisfied.

1. Reliability

Before the court addresses Dentsply's arguments concerning the reliability of Dr. Kursh's testimony, a few preliminary observations are in order. First, the standard for allowing an expert to testify as to his or her findings is a liberal one. See Arlington Indus., Inc. v. Bridgeport Fittings, Inc., 658 F. Supp. 2d 630, 637 (holding that a expert's opinion is admissible if supported by "good grounds" and that if good grounds are found, further critique of the opinion should be ...


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