The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joseph E. Irenas, S.U.S.D.J.
IRENAS, Senior District Judge
Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Exclude the Opinions and Testimony of David E. Jones (Docket No. 162). The Court has reviewed the submissions of the parties, and for the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.
Viking Yacht Company ("Viking") and Post Marine Co., Inc. ("Post") (collectively, "Plaintiffs") are luxury yacht manufacturers. They brought suit against Defendant Cook Composites and Polymers, Co. ("CCP") to recover damages resulting from the cracking of gel coats on yachts Plaintiffs manufactured using CCP's 953 Series gel coat. The Court has extensively discussed the facts and history of this case in its previously issued opinions on cross Motions for Summary Judgment, Motions for Reconsideration, the more recent Motion to Bifurcate the Trial of Liability and Damages.*fn1 As a result of this Court's previous holdings, Plaintiffs' surviving claims are: (1) breach of express warranty, (2) fraudulent misrepresentation, and (3) violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 56:8-2.
Plaintiffs retained David E. Jones, III, a "naval architect and marine engineer," with a specialty in "structural composites,"*fn2 (Jones Dep. at 7:24-8:2), "for the purpose of determining if the procedures, methods or equipment used in the gelcoat*fn3 application process varies from that used within the marine industry and whether or not the manufacturing process affected the performance or reliability of the gelcoat product used." (Jones Rep. at 1.) Jones tested on one Viking yacht that exhibited cracking,*fn4 toured Viking's facilities and conducted interviews with its employees, watched videos of some procedures at Post, and reviewed a number of documents provided by Plaintiffs' counsel.
Jones issued a three page report. The first page of the report discusses the prevalence of minor gel coat cracking in the marine industry, and the ease with which it can be repaired, but concludes that "[t]his is not the type of cracks that can be seen on the many Viking and Post vessels represented in the documents provided." (Jones Rep. at 1.) Jones states:
The gelcoat cracking, as seen on vessel # VKY55945H900 at the Viking Facility in New Gretna, New Jersey was global in nature, essentially affecting nearly every gelcoated fiberglass part on the boat. The pattern of the cracks was fairly random in orientation and alignment and did not follow the typical lines of mechanical stress or was the result of mold stresses or poor fit or manufacturing defects. The issue was found on resin transfer-molded (RTM) parts using one resin system and on hand-laid open-molded parts using another resin system. Vacuum molded, pressure molded and contact molded parts using a variety of resins on the same vessel exhibiting the same pattern of gelcoat cracking. The only common denominators left in this scenario are the gelcoat used (the same type throughout) and the environment the boat had existed in. (Id. at 2.) Jones notes that "[t]he boats come from all over the country and are exposed to a wide variety of climate and environmental conditions.*fn5 Each boat has different service and operational duties, different maintenance schedules and operated in various sea conditions and seasonal changes." (Id.) Therefore, Jones concludes that "[t]he only common denominator in this instance is the gelcoat used; all of the same type and all produced by the same manufacture [sic]." (Id.)
Jones goes on to discuss the quality control standards at both Viking and Post. He then discusses the testing he performed on the eight samples he took from the Tortora yacht, six of which contained cracking that "extended through the gelcoat and into the skin coat." (Id.) He concludes that "[t]he six (6) samples which displayed damage to the underlying skin coat laminate had no visible voids, delamination or other manufacturing defects that could have caused the failures." (Id.)
Ultimately, Jones concludes:
The occurrence of cosmetic gelcoat cracking is not uncommon in the marine industry but the global nature and magnitude of these cracks is. Historically speaking, an occurrence of this type and the global extent of gelcoat cracking of this type is unheard of; rarely found. It is my opinion that the occurrence of the gelcoat cracking evident in the Viking Yacht Company and the Post Marine Company is a material defect in the gelcoat itself and not in the manufacturing process of building the parts or the application and handling of the material itself. Gelcoat is expected to last with only minor cosmetic issues of color and gloss fade but not to catastrophically fail as found in the Viking and Post product. Fiberglass boats have been demonstrated to last for decades and with hundreds of thousands of new boats per year being produced in this country alone with near automotive-grade finished of marine-grade gelcoat and still the incidence of global gelcoat cracking such as found in this case is rare if found at all. (Id. at 3.)
In the instant Motion, CCP seeks to exclude Jones's opinions and testimony. For the foregoing reasons, CCP's Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.
"Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, it is the role of the trial judge to act as a 'gatekeeper' to ensure that any and all expert testimony or evidence is not only relevant, but also reliable." Kannankeril v. Terminix Int'l, Inc., 128 F.3d 802, 806 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993)). Federal Rule of Evidence 702 "has three major requirements: (1) the proffered witness must be an expert, i.e., must be qualified; (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." Pineda v. Ford Motor Co., 520 F.3d 237, 244 (3d Cir. 2008) (Irenas, S.D.J., sitting by designation).*fn6 Admissibility under the third requirement, the "fit" requirement, "depends in part on 'the proffered connection between the scientific research or test result to be presented and particular disputed factual issues in the case.'" In re Paoli R.R. Yard PCB Litig., 35 F.3d 717, 743 (3d Cir. 1994) (quoting ...