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Stubblefield v. Suzuki Motor Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

September 29, 2018

BRADLEY STUBBLEFIELD and KRISTAN STUBBLEFIELD PLAINTIFFS
v.
SUZUKI MOTOR CORP., and SUZUKI MOTOR OF AMERICA, INC. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER EXCLUDING CORROSION OPINION OF STEVE MUTHIG BEFORE THIS COURT

          HENRY T. WINGATE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         is defendants' Motion in Limine to Exclude Corrosion Opinion Testimony of SMAI 30(b)(6) Witness Steve Muthig [Docket no. 256]. Defendants, Suzuki Motor Corp. (hereinafter referred to as “SMC”) and Suzuki Motor of America, Inc. (hereinafter referred to as “SMAI”), ask this court to exclude SMAI's 30(b)(6) representative's testimony about the alleged corrosion occurring in the front brake master cylinder (hereinafter referred to as “FBMC”) here at issue. Defendants say that SMAI's 30(b)(6) corporate representative, Steve Muthig (hereinafter referred to as “Muthig”) should be excluded as an expert witness for two reasons: Muthig's testimony was outside the scope of the notice of deposition; and that Muthig was not an expert qualified to offer an expert opinion on the subject of corrosion. Plaintiffs oppose defendants' motion arguing that: Muthig's testimony was within the scope of the deposition notice; and that Muthig is qualified to answer corrosion questions. After a comprehensive review of the submissions of the parties, this court grants defendants' motion for the reasons that follow.

         I. FACTUAL BASIS

         The instant lawsuit is one of several lawsuits all involving various plaintiffs who have suffered a motorcycle accident while riding a Suzuki GSX-R model motorcycle manufactured between 2004 and 2013. During the litigation of those lawsuits the various plaintiffs collaborated about discovery issues, including participating in the depositions of the various expert witnesses and of defendants' 30(b)(6) representative. In one of those related lawsuits, Johns v. Suzuki Motor Corp., et al, (State Court of Douglas County, Georgia Civil Action File Number 14-CV-00043) (hereinafter referred to as the “Johns Litigation”) the Johns plaintiffs noticed the deposition of SMAI's 30(b)(6) representative. The Johns litigation is in the State Court of Douglas County, Georgia and his deposition was not noticed under Rule 30(b)(6)[1] of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, but rather, under the authority of O.C.G.A. § 9-11-30(b)(5) and O.C.G.A. § 9-11-30(b)(6)[2]. The scope of the notice of deposition stated as follows:

1. The earliest date when either You determined, or understood that SMC had determined, there was a Defect in the Pre-Recall FBMC.
2. Communications between You and SMC regarding the determination that there was a Defect in the Pre-Recall FBMC.
3. Communications between You and Nissin regarding the determination that there was a Defect in the Pre-Recall FBMC 4. Communications between You and any lawyer, law firm, in-house counsel or legal department regarding if or when You or SMC should submit a “Defect and Noncompliance Information Report” or similar report to NHTSA[3], but only to the extent necessary to disclose:
a. The dates of each such communication;
b. Whether the communications were oral or written;
c. The identities of the participants in the communications;
d. The author(s) of all written communications;
e. The carbon copy or blind copy recipients of all written communications;
f. The dates, authors and distributors of any written summaries, reports or memoranda; and
g. A description as to why You claim the communications are privileged (assuming you so contend).
5. Communications between You and SMC regarding if or when You or SMC should submit a “Defect and Noncompliance Information Report” or similar report to NHTSA.
6. Communications between You and Nissin regarding if or when You or SMC should submit a “Defect and Noncompliance Information Report” or similar report to NHTSA.
7. The date when You, SMC and/or Nissin decided to change from using an FBMC with a Horizontal Port to one with a Vertical Port.
8. The date when actual production of Suzuki GSX-R motorcycles switched from using an FBMC with a Horizontal Port ...

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