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Copelan v. Techtronics Industries, Co., Ltd.

United States District Court, S.D. California

April 24, 2015

CHARLES COPELAN, Plaintiff,
v.
TECHTRONICS INDUSTRIES, CO., LTD., ET AL. Defendants.

ORDER: (1) GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO PRECLUDE TESTIMONY OF DR. GASS (ECF NO. 28); (2) DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO PRECLUDE TESTIMONY OF DARRY ROBERT HOLT (ECF NO. 29); AND (3) DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO PRECLUDE TESTIMONY OF KELLY MEHLER (ECF NO. 30)

CYNTHIA BASHANT, District Judge.

Pending before the Court are motions filed by defendants One World Technologies, Inc. and Home Depot U.S.A., Inc. (collectively "Defendants") to preclude the testimony of Plaintiff's non-retained expert Dr. Stephen F. Gass, and retained experts Darry Robert Holt and Kelly Mehler. (ECF Nos. 28, 29, 30.) Plaintiff filed oppositions to the motions. The Court held a hearing on the motions on April 21, 2015.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court (1) GRANTS Defendants' motion to preclude the testimony of Dr. Stephen Gass (ECF No. 28); (2) DENIES Defendants' motion to preclude the testimony of Darry Robert Holt (ECF No. 29); and (3) DENIES Defendants' motion to preclude the testimony of Kelly Mehler (ECF No. 30).

I. BACKGROUND

On November 7, 2011, Charles Copelan ("Copelan") commenced this personal injury action in San Diego County Superior Court. On January 25, 2012, Copelan filed an amended complaint in San Diego Superior Court alleging, among other things, negligence and strict liability for design defects. The action was removed to federal court on May 25, 2012. (ECF No. 1.)

This action stems from an incident that occurred on December 21, 2009, when Copelan used a Ryobi Portable Table Saw Model BTS16 ("Ryobi Saw") to cut a piece of bamboo flooring. (ECF No. 28 at 2.) The Ryobi Saw failed to function, causing injury to Copelan's left, non-dominant hand. (Id.; ECF No. 1.)

The Ryobi Saw is a small, benchtop saw designed, manufactured, and sold by Defendants. (Id. ) It weighs less than 60 lbs. and sells for less than $200. (Id. ) The Ryobi Saw purchased by Copelan came equipped with a splitter/mounted guard consisting of three pieces - a splitter (a piece of metal sitting behind the blade), a hood guard which is attached to the splitter, and anti-kickback pawls which are also attached to the splitter. (Id. ) The supplied blade guard had been removed at some point prior to Copelan's accident. (Id. at 2-3; ECF No. 34 at 9.)

Copelan alleges the Ryobi Saw that caused his injuries was defective. Central to Plaintiff's case is the contention that the Ryobi Saw was defectively designed because it did not include a flesh detection braking technology referred to as "SawStop, " which was invented by Dr. Stephen Gass. (ECF No. 28 at 3; ECF No. 28-2 at 12; ECF No. 34 at 11.) SawStop "is a contact detection system that works by recognizing differences between the electrical properties of wood and a person. The system generates an electrical signal onto the blade, and then monitors that signal for changes caused by contact with a person's body. When the system detects contact with a person's body it releases a block of aluminum or plastic into the teeth of the saw blade to stop the blade from spinning." (ECF No. 28 at 3; see also ECF No. 28-2 at 13, ΒΆΒΆ 3-6.)

On March 27, 2015, the Court granted United States Trustee Richard Kipperman's motion to substitute into this case as the plaintiff. Therefore, the action is currently being pursued by Mr. Kipperman (hereinafter referred to as "Plaintiff").

On January 10, 2014, Copelan served his Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2) disclosures designating Robert Holt and Kelly Mehler as retained experts, and Dr. Stephen Gass as a non-retained expert. ( See ECF No. 28-2 at 22-25.) Defendants now move to preclude the testimony of Plaintiff's experts. (ECF Nos. 28, 29, 30.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence governs the admissibility of expert testimony. Ollier v. Sweetwater Union High Sch. Dist., 768 F.3d 843, 859 (9th Cir. 2014). Rule 702 provides that a witness "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 ...

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