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Caribbean Utilities Company, Ltd. v. Howard Industries, Inc.

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

November 12, 2019

CARIBBEAN UTILITIES COMPANY, LTD. PLAINTIFF
v.
HOWARD INDUSTRIES, INC., a Mississippi profit corporation, DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          KEITH STARRETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This cause came before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Exclude or Limit the Testimony of Defendant's Engineering Expert, Dr. Eric P. Guyer [110]. The motion has been fully briefed [119, 138]. Having reviewed the parties' submissions, the relevant legal authority and otherwise being fully advised in the premises, the Court finds that the motion will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Caribbean Utilities Company, Ltd. (“CUC”) is an electric utility company located in the Cayman Islands. This case arises from electrical transformers manufactured by the Defendant, Howard Industries, Inc. (“Howard”), which CUC alleges are defective. At issue presently is expert testimony provided by Howard's expert, Dr. Eric P. Guyer, Ph.D., P.E., an engineer who specializes in failure analysis, metallurgy, materials science, adhesion science, fracture and fatigue of materials, material degradation, and material deformation, as well as paints and protective coatings. [110-9] at p. 1. Dr. Guyer and his company (Exponent) visited CUC's facility in the Cayman Islands and observed several hundred of the transformers that had been removed from service at that time, which were being stored in steel shipping containers. [110-9] at p. 6. He also toured Howard's plant in 2019. [110-9] at p. 31. He has reviewed testing performed by Applied Technical Services [110-9] at pp. 20-29, and throughout his report has offered rebuttal to CUC's expert reports.

         CUC moves the Court to exclude or limit Dr. Guyer's testimony because CUC contends his opinions are unreliable, irrelevant, not based on proper methodology, unfairly prejudicial, speculative and not supported by sufficient facts and because he is not qualified to render certain opinions he has expressed.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 states that 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

[i]f 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 on 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 Rule imposes on the trial judge an obligation to “‘ensure that all [expert] testimony . . . is not only relevant, but reliable.'” Kuhmo Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 147 (1999); see also Watkins v. Telsmith, Inc., 121 F.3d 984, 988-989 (5th Cir. 1997) (“[W]hen expert testimony is offered, the trial judge. Must perform a screening to ensure that the expert's opinion is reliable and relevant to the facts at issue in the case.”).

         B. Discussion

         More specifically than previously stated, CUC contends that Dr. Guyer should be precluded from testifying as follows:

1) to the effect that the Howard transformers were not contaminated with iron; CUC submits various pieces of evidence in support of its arguments; and
2) that Howard's phosphating process removed any iron contamination from the transformers;
3) as to any opinions regarding the maintenance of the transformers because he is not qualified;
4) as to any opinion that the transformers corroded because of deficient specifications and lack of maintenance;
5) as to his opinion to the effect that there was no basis for CUC's decision to remove all pole-mounted transformers from ...

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