Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Daniel Reardon et al. v. Illinois Tool Works

April 10, 2013


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


Plaintiffs, husband and wife Daniel Reardon and Anita Heriot Reardon, bring this products liability action against defendant, Illinois Tool Works, Inc. ("ITW"), based on allegations that Mr. Reardon was injured while attempting to assemble an ITW-manufactured product. Plaintiffs bring design defect and warning defect claims, and Mrs. Heriot Reardon brings a claim for loss of consortium. Before me is ITW's motion to exclude plaintiffs' proposed expert, Gary Sheesley, P.E., from testifying. ITW has also moved for summary judgment on all of plaintiffs' claims; some of its arguments for summary judgment are predicated on the exclusion of the expert testimony, and some of its arguments are independent of exclusion. For the reasons set forth below, I will deny both ITW's motion to exclude and its motion for summary judgment.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Mr. Reardon was working with a framing nailer manufactured by ITW. (Reardon Dep. 64; Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 2.) The nailer is powered by a battery and a hydrocarbon fuel cell. The fuel cell has a chamber-within-a-chamber design. In the outer chamber there is pressurized gas and in the inner chamber there is liquified propane. In order to operate the nailer, a metering valve must be installed on top of the fuel cell so that the proper amount of fuel is discharged into the combustion chamber of the nailer. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 2.) The metering valve is installed by manually pressing two tongs on the bottom of the valve into grooves notched in the top of the fuel cell. (Sheesley Dep. 155-56; Opp'n Mot. to Exclude Ex. G.)

When Mr. Reardon attempted to "seat" the metering valve on the fuel cell, he was able to insert only one tong before the valve got stuck. At this point, he could neither complete installation nor remove the valve completely, and gas was discharging from the fuel cell. As a result of the botched installation, Mr. Reardon suffered a pneumatic injection of high-pressure gas into the skin under his right thumbnail. (Reardon Dep. 90, 124-131.)

As a result of this incident, plaintiffs brought suit against ITW. Plaintiffs retained Sheesley as an expert to inspect the incident fuel cell and other exemplar cells. Sheesley will testify as follows, based on his reports and deposition. The fuel cell was defectively designed because it could accidentally release high-pressure gas when users attempt to attach the metering valve. Mr. Reardon incurred his injury while attempting to attach the metering valve according to the provided instructions. There were no warnings to inform users that gas could be released at hazardously high pressures. He will further testify that an alternative design that is economically and technically feasible could have eliminated the possibility of such hazardous release, or else ITW could have sold fuel cells preassembled with the metering valve. Finally, he will opine that Mr. Reardon was using the fuel cell in the intended manner and was in no way responsible for his accident.

ITW moved to exclude Sheesley's testimony as unreliable and, in conjunction, moved for summary judgment. I held a hearing on its motion to exclude on March 6, 2013. Both parties assume that Pennsylvania substantive law applies, and I agree. See Klein v. Council of Chemical Ass'ns, 587 F. Supp. 213, 220 n.2 (E.D. Pa. 1984). Thus I apply the Restatement (Third) of Torts. See, e.g., Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corp., No. 12--8081, 2012 WL 5077571 (3d Cir. Oct. 17, 2012) (confirming its prediction that when confronted with the issue, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will adopt the Restatement (Third) in product liability actions).*fn1 The Restatement (Third) recognizes three broad theories of liability: manufacturing defect, design defect, and warning defect. Restatement (Third) of Torts: Prod. Liab. § 2 (1998). Only the latter two theories are implicated here. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. at 9; Pl.'s Mem. Law Opp'n Mot. Summ. J. at 6.) So while the complaint speaks in terms of the "traditional doctrinal categories" of strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty, see id. cmt. n, I will construe it as asserting claims for defective design and defective warnings.

II. Discussion

A. Legal Standard

1. Motion to Exclude Expert Testimony

The admissibility of expert testimony is governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 702. As the Third Circuit has explained, the Federal Rules of Evidence "embody a strong and undeniable preference for admitting any evidence which has the potential for assisting the trier of fact," and Rule 702 "has a liberal policy of admissibility." Kannankeril v. Terminix Int'l, Inc., 128 F.3d 802, 806 (3d Cir. 1997). Yet Rule 702 does place some constraints on the admission of expert testimony: "(1) the proffered witness must be an expert; (2) the expert must testify about matters requiring scientific, technical or specialized knowledge; and (3) the expert's testimony must assist the trier of fact." Id. (citing In re Paoli R.R. Yard PCB Litig., 35 F.3d 717, 741-42 (3d Cir. 1994). "In interpreting this second requirement, we have concluded that an expert's testimony is admissible so long as the process or technique the expert used in formulating the opinion is reliable." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993) ("[T]he trial judge must ensure that any and all scientific testimony or evidence admitted is not only relevant, but reliable.").

The reliability inquiry is flexible and may include (but is not limited to) factors such as "whether a method consists of a testable hypothesis" or "whether the method has been subject to peer review." Pineda v. Ford Motor Co., 520 F.3d 237, 247 (3d Cir. 2008). Not all factors listed in Daubert are applicable to every case, and the inquiry must be tailored to the facts at hand. See id. at 248.

2. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). "Facts that could alter the outcome are 'material,' and disputes are 'genuine' if evidence exists from which a rational person could conclude that the position of the person with the burden of proof on the disputed issue is correct." Ideal Dairy Farms, Inc. v. John Labatt, Ltd., 90 F.3d 737, 743 (3d Cir. 1996). "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.