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Christopher Furlan and Valerie Furlan, Parents and v. Schindler Elevator Corporation

March 29, 2012

CHRISTOPHER FURLAN AND VALERIE FURLAN, PARENTS AND NATURAL GUARDIANS OF ROBERT T. FURLAN, A MINOR, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SCHINDLER ELEVATOR CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DuBOIS, J.

MEMORANDUM

I. INTRODUCTION

In this action, plaintiffs Christopher and Valerie Furlan allege that defendant Schindler Elevator Corporation's ("Schindler's") negligent maintenance of a department-store escalator caused an injury to their minor son.*fn1 Presently before the Court are two motions: the Daubert Motion of Schindler Elevator Corporation to Preclude the Testimony of Richard A. Kennedy and the Motion of Defendant Schindler Elevator Corporation for Summary Judgment. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants both motions.

II. BACKGROUND

A. The May 29, 2006, Incident

On May 29, 2006, Christopher and Valerie Furlan took their two children to the Granite Run Mall in Media, Pennsylvania. (Statement Facts Schindler Contends Undisputed ("Def.'s Stmt. Facts") ¶ 2.)*fn2 The family was shopping on the lower level of the Boscov's department store when three-year-old Robert's hand became caught in the inlet of the "down" escalator. (Id.

¶ 3.) The inlet is the space where the escalator's moving handrail enters the escalator's balustrade,*fn3 and it is surrounded by a plastic finger guard. (See Report of Jon B. Halpern, Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. H ("Halpern Report"), at 2.)

Neither parent saw Robert's hand enter the inlet. (Christopher Furlan Dep., Pls.' Resp. Summ. J. Ex. A ("Christopher Furlan Dep."), at 29-31; Valerie Furlan Dep., Pls.' Resp. Summ. J. Ex. H ("Valerie Furlan Dep."), at 26.) However, Mr. and Mrs. Furlan rushed to Robert when they heard him scream. (Christopher Furlan Dep. 30-31; Valerie Furlan Dep. 26.) They observed that Robert's left hand was stuck in the inlet "up to where the fingers stop." (Valerie Furlan Dep. 27; see also Christopher Furlan Dep. 38-39.) Mr. Furlan stopped the escalator by pressing the emergency stop button. (Christopher Furlan Dep. 31.) When he pulled Robert's hand out of the inlet, Mr. Furlan observed "a lot of denuded flesh." (Id. at 41.) The family immediately took Robert to Riddle Memorial Hospital, where medical personnel cleaned and dressed the wound. (Id. at 44, 46.) In the ensuing months, Robert underwent physical therapy and his parents provided care at home. (Valerie Furlan Dep. 33-35.)

On July 11, 2007, Robert began treatment with Dr. Benjamin Chang, a pediatric hand surgeon at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. (Report of Dr. Benjamin Chang, Pls.' Resp. Summ. J. Ex. B, at 1, 3.) At that time, Robert was experiencing "pain in [his] scar" and was unable to extend some of his fingers fully. (Id.) Dr. Chang performed surgery on September 14, 2007, excising the scars on Robert's fingers and performing a skin graft. (Id. at 2.) At a follow-up visit on August 27, 2008, Dr. Chang observed that Robert "had full flexion and extension of all digits," the skin grafts were fully healed, and a "neurovascular exam was normal in the injured digits." (Id. at 2.) As of October 27, 2009, Dr. Chang opined that Robert's prognosis was good and additional surgery would not be required. (Id. at 3.)

B. Defendant's Alleged Role in the Incident

Defendant's involvement in this lawsuit arises from a contract ("the Preventive Maintenance Agreement") under which defendant agreed to maintain the escalator at issue. In 2000, Boscov's hired defendant to perform preventive maintenance on the escalator, along with other escalators and elevators at Boscov's stores in the Northeast. (Preventive Maintenance Agreement, Pls.' Resp. Summ. J. Ex. D, at 1-3.) Haughton Elevator Company manufactured the escalator but is not a party to this lawsuit. (Def.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 8.) The escalator, which is an HC-48 model, was installed in 1974. (Id.)

Under the Preventive Maintenance Agreement, defendant agreed to "[r]egularly and systematically examine, clean, lubricate[,] adjust[,] and when conditions warrant, repair or replace" particular components of the escalator and to "[t]est all operating and safety devices as required by" the American National Standards Institute ("ANSI") A.17.1 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators. (Preventive Maintenance Agreement 6.) The Preventive Maintenance Agreement provided that defendant would make "only those replacements, adjustments[,] and repairs" made necessary by "ordinary wear and tear." (Id. at 8.) Defendant was not obligated to "make changes or modifications in design or make any replacements with parts of a different design." (Id.) In addition, defendant expressly "assume[d] no responsibility" for several parts of the escalator, including the balustrade. (Id. at 6.)

C. The Present Action

Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County on October 5, 2010. Defendant removed the case to this Court on November 23, 2010, and filed the motions presently at issue on December 2, 2011.

III. DEFENDANT'S DAUBERT MOTION

The Court begins by addressing defendant's motion to exclude the testimony of Richard

A. Kennedy, whom plaintiff offers as an expert in escalator safety and maintenance. For the reasons explained below, the Court grants the motion.

A. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Evidence ("Rule") 702 provides as follows:

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

The "pathmarking" Supreme Court cases interpreting Rule 702 are Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993), and Kumho Tire v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999). United States v. Mitchell, 365 F.3d 215, 234 (3d Cir. 2004). In Daubert, the Supreme Court held that "[f]aced with a proffer of expert scientific testimony . . . the trial judge must determine at the outset . . . 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. In Kumho Tire, the Supreme Court made clear ...


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