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Bayshore Ford Truck, et al v. Ford Motor Company

July 1, 2011

BAYSHORE FORD TRUCK, ET AL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Linares, District Judge.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on certain motions in limine filed by Plaintiffs and Defendant. The Court will hear oral arguments at the beginning of trial on Defendant's Motion to Preclude the Expert Opinion Testimony of Les Langenderfer and Motion to Exclude Certain Evidence and Arguments; and Plaintiffs' Motion to Preclude Defendant's Use of Testimony of Adequacy of Fact Discovery only. Until then, the Court reserves judgment on the aforementioned motions. As to the remaining motions in limine, the Court has considered the submissions of the parties and decides this matter without oral argument pursuant to Rule 78 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs' Motion to Preclude the Use of Class Damages, Motion to Bar the Expert Testimony of Ned S. Barnes, Motion to Exclude Evidence of Super Duty Sales, Motion to Preclude the Use of Evidence Related to Colony Ford Truck Sales, Inc. and Motion to Bar the Expert Testimony of Davis S. Kaplan are granted in part and denied in part. Defendant's Motion to Preclude the Expert Reports of Dr. Ernest Manuel is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

The facts of this case have been more fully set forth in this Court's prior summary judgment and class certification opinions.

On December 7, 2005, this Court granted the named Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment with regard to liability for their breach of contract claim. Subsequently, the case was certified as a class action on September 8, 2006. On November 16, 2009, the Court extended its ruling on liability for breach of contract to the class of Ford heavy truck dealers who, upon Ford's sale of its heavy truck business to Freightliner Corporation in 1997, breached its contract without termination of Ford's agreements.

In its January 29, 2010 Opinion, this Court granted Ford's motion to decertify the damages class. The Court emphasized the individual qualities of dealer damages, and the parties agreed to proceed via a bellwether trial as to a group of individual dealers. The Court denied the parties' respective motions to strike expert opinions, reports and testimony, subject to re-filing as motion in limine. Said motions are now properly before the Court.

II. LEGAL DISCUSSION

A. Defendant's Motion to Preclude the Expert Reports of Dr. Ernest Manual and Plaintiffs' Motion in Preclude Ford's Use of Class of Damages

Ford moves this court to preclude the expert reports of Dr. Ernest Manuel arguing that the expert's method is not generally accepted, made for litigation, and produces dramatically inconsistent results. Plaintiff retorts that Dr. Manuel's expertise is "beyond reasonable dispute" and that the "Before and After" Methodology, employed by Dr. Manuel is recognized by experts in the field as an acceptable method of calculating lost profits. In a related motion, Plaintiffs also argue that Ford's use of the class-damages model is now irrelevant, and that said evidence should be excluded because its probative value is outweighed by its prejudicial effects pursuant to Rule 403. Fed. R. Evid. 403. Namely, Plaintiff avers that Ford is not offering the class damages evidence for the truth of the matter asserted, rather, Defendant is using this calculation to impeach Plaintiffs' expert, Dr. Manuel. Defendants' concede that the use of class damages is essentially impeachment evidence, and that "if Dr. Manuel's latest estimates are admitted, Ford must be allowed to cross-examine him based on his prior opinion purporting to quantify the same damages." The Court first addresses the admissibility of Dr. Manuel's expert report.

In Daubert, the Supreme Court held that the trial judge bears the burden of "ensuring that an expert's testimony rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand." Daubert v. Merrel Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 597 (1993). However, "[t]he Rules of evidence embody a strong preference for admitting any evidence that may assist the trier of fact." Pineda v. Ford Moto Co., 520 F.3d 237, 243 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal citations omitted). In fact, Daubert, encourages the use of "vigorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence and careful instruction on the burden of proof" as a means to "attack shaky but admissible evidence." Daubert, 509 U.S. at 596.

To determine the admissibility of expert testimony, the Third Circuit requires trial courts to consider three elements: qualifications, reliability, and relevance. The party seeking to admit a purported expert's testimony must demonstrate satisfaction of these elements by a preponderance of the evidence. Lithuanian Commerce Corp. v. Sara Lee Hosiery, 179 F.R.D. 450, 459 (D.N.J. 1998). Further, the Supreme Court has stated that "[d]amages are not rendered uncertain because they cannot be calculated with absolute exactness. It is sufficient if a reasonable basis of computation is afforded, although the result be only approximate. Palmer v. Connecticut Ry. & Lightning Co., 311 U.S. 544, 560 (1941) (quoting Eastman Kodak Co. v. Southern Photo Materials Co., 273 U.S. 359, 379 (1927).

As an initial matter, the Court dismisses any argument that Dr. Manuel is not qualified to testify as an expert. Upon review of Dr. Manuel's credentials, his expertise in the automotive industry is beyond dispute. See Boyer Rpt. ¶¶ 25-33. As Dr. Manuel's credentials cannot and have not seriously been questioned, the Court turns to the reliability of his methods and the relevance of his testimony.

Determining the reliability of expert testimony requires an "assessment of whether that reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is scientifically valid and of whether the reasoning or methodology properly can be applied the facts in issue." Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592-93. Further, Rule 702 requires that an expert's testimony be relevant. "[E]ven if an expert's proposed testimony constitutes scientific knowledge, his or her testimony will be excluded if it is not scientific ...


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