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Qvc, Inc. v. Mjc America

January 4, 2012

QVC, INC.
v.
MJC AMERICA, LTD. D/B/A SOLEUS INTERNATIONAL, INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'neill, J.

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff and counterclaim-defendant QVC, Inc. moves to exclude certain opinion testimony of Harry Ehrlich, a liability expert proffered by defendant and counterclaim-plaintiff MJC America, Ltd., d/b/a Soleus International, Inc. QVC contends that certain of Ehrlich's opinions and testimony do not satisfy the requisites of Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence and/or the standards set forth in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993) and its progeny. For the reasons that follow, I will grant in part and deny in part QVC's motion.

BACKGROUND*fn1

Among QVC's claims against Soleus is a claim seeking to recover costs and damages allegedly attributable to QVC's voluntary recall of 19,000 SoleusAir model HM5-15A-32 space heaters. After receiving customer reports that certain heaters distributed by Soleus had emitted smoke and sparks, overheated, melted and/or caught fire, QVC implemented a voluntary recall of the heaters. The purchase orders for the heaters provided that:

In the event [QVC] reasonably determines that any Merchandise sold by [QVC] to its customers contains any defect, [QVC] may, in its sole discretion (taking into account [QVC's] standards for customer satisfaction), subject to applicable law, determine whether [to conduct] a voluntary recall or other action (including the determination as to whether [QVC's] customers will be offered a replacement item of Merchandise or a refund of their purchase price and shipping and handling charges).

Compl. ¶ 20. QVC asserts that it reasonably determined that the heaters were defective and that it properly exercised its discretion to recall them. Compl. ¶ 32. Soleus contends that QVC's recall of the heaters was unreasonable. Dkt. No. 71 at 2.

Soleus retained Ehrlich to review QVC's decision to recall the heaters. Ehrlich submits that he is an engineer with expertise in "industrial and manufacturing areas, human factors, product design, equipment design, [and] warnings." Dkt. No. 68-3 at 7:13-15; 127:7-13. Ehrlich has experience in the investigation of product failures. Dkt. 68-2 at 11.*fn2 His past experience also includes responsibility for quality control, manufacturing processes, and compliance with Underwriters Laboratory standards. Id. He considers himself to be an expert in manufacturing processes that involve the crimping of electrified wires within consumer appliances including humidifiers, vaporizers, heating pads, coffee makers and convection ovens. Dkt. No. 68-3 at 15:6-16:23.

Ehrlich has submitted two expert reports, dated January 11, 2011 and February 25, 2011. In his reports, he concludes, inter alia, that "the cause of overheating is attributed to an isolated condition related to the crimping of wires," Dkt. No. 68-1 at 8, and that "a loose crimp connection was responsible for the failure." Dkt. No. 68-2 at 2. Ehrlich's reports also criticize the rigor of QVC's investigation into possible defects in the heaters. His reports ultimately conclude that QVC's recall decision had "no basis," was "arbitrary," "not justified" and "not substantiated"; and that QVC had no "right" to issue the recall, Dkt. No. 68-1 at 13, Dkt. No. 68-3 at 29:21-23; 78:7-12; and that QVC's recall failed to "comport with the [Consumer Product Safety Commission] requirements for a product safety recall." Dkt. No. 68-2 at 5. QVC contends that these conclusions are improper legal opinions and seeks to exclude them. QVC also asserts that Ehrlich lacks the requisite specialized knowledge to offer his opinion that QVC's recall decision was not reasonable because the recall decision was overbroad in scope and premature. Dkt. No. 68-1 at 12-13. QVC further contends that Ehrlich lacks the requisite expertise to render an opinion that the defects present in the heaters were "not statistically significant" and constituted "an isolated problem." Id. at 11-12.

LEGAL STANDARD

Expert testimony may not be admitted at trial unless the proffered testimony is "not only relevant, but reliable." Daubert, 509 U.S. at 589, see also Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 147-48 (1999) (holding that a district court's "gate keeping obligation" under Daubert and Rule 702 applies to "all experts, not just to 'scientific ones'"). Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence governs the admissibility of expert opinion testimony at trial and provides that

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 methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of this case.

Fed. R. Evid. 702. Rule 702 thus mandates "three distinct substantive restrictions on the admission of expert testimony: qualifications, reliability and fit." Elcock v. Kmart Corp., 233 F.3d 734, 741 (3d Cir. 2000). The party offering the expert testimony has the burden of establishing that the proffered testimony meets each of the three requirements by a preponderance of the evidence. Padillas v. Stork-Gamco, Inc., 186 F.3d 412, 418 (3d Cir. 1999).

DISCUSSION

I. Legal ...


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