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Maneri v. Starbucks Corporation Store #1527

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 31, 2019

KAREN MANERI
v.
STARBUCKS CORPORATION STORE #1527

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDERS

          JACOB P. HART UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Karen Maneri, commenced this action by filing a Complaint in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on May 15, 2017, which was removed to this court on August 29, 2017. Plaintiff asserted claims of negligence, product liability, and breach of warranty against Defendant, Starbucks, for serving hot tea which spilled on Plaintiff after she purchased the tea at Defendant's drive-thru window. She alleges that after she purchased the tea and placed it into her car's built-in cupholder, she drove home and as she turned into her driveway the lid popped off, causing the tea to spill on her leg and resulting in severe burns.

         The parties consented to proceed before the undersigned and approval of the Consent was signed by the Honorable Berle M. Schiller on May 13, 2019. (Doc. No. 17). Currently pending before this Court are Defendant's Motion to Exclude the Testimony of Plaintiff's Liability Expert (Doc. No. 23) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 24). Plaintiff has filed a Response to both Motions (Docs. No. 26, 27) and Defendant has filed Replies to Plaintiff's Responses (Docs. No. 28, 29).

         II. MOTION TO EXCLUDE TESTIMONY

         A. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 states:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and (d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

Fed. R. Evid. 702. The Supreme Court held in Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., that as “gatekeeper, ” the trial judge must ensure that expert testimony is both relevant and reliable. Daubert, 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993). This basic gatekeeping obligation applies to all expert testimony, not only to “scientific” testimony. Kumho Tire Co, Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 147 (1999).

         The Third Circuit has held that Rule 702 requires the proponent of the testimony to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence: (1) the proffered witness is qualified as an expert (2) the expert is testifying about matters requiring scientific, technical or specialized knowledge; and (3) the expert's testimony will assist the trier of fact. In re Paoli R.R. Yard PCB Litig., 35 F.3d 717, 741-743 (3d Cir. 1994); see also In re Zoloft (Sertraline Hydrochloride) Prod. Liab. Litig., 858 F.3d 787, 792 (3d Cir. 2017). The expert testimony must be “reliable, ” which means the opinion “must be based on methods and procedures of science rather than on subjective belief or unsupported speculation.” In re Paoli R.R. Yard Pcb Litig., 35 F.3d 717, 741 (3d Cir. 1993), quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 590.

         To determine the reliability of the proposed evidence, the court may consider factors including:

(1) whether a method consists of a testable hypothesis;
(2) whether the method has been subjected to peer review;
(3) the known or potential rate of error;
(4) the existence and maintenance of standards controlling the technique's operations;
(5) whether the method is generally accepted;
(6) the relationship of the technique to methods which have been established to be reliable;
(7) the qualifications of the expert witness testifying based on the methodology; and
(8) the non-judicial uses to which the method has been put.

United States v. Mitchell, 365 F.3d 215, 235 (3d Cir. 2004), quoting Paoli, 35 F.3d at 742, n. 8.

         The court will consider both academic training and practical experience to determine if the expert has “more knowledge than the average lay person” on the subject. Fedor v. Freightliner, Inc., 193 F.Supp.2d 820, 827 (E.D. Pa. 2002) (citing Waldorf v. Shuta, 142 F.3d 601, 627 (3d Cir.1998)). The specialized knowledge the expert possesses must relate to the area of testimony. Id. In addition to consideration of these factors as to reliability, the ...


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