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Dymnioski v. Crown Equipment Corp.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 24, 2013

Keith DYMNIOSKI and JoAnn DYMNIOSKI, Plaintiffs,
v.
CROWN EQUIPMENT CORP.; COSTCO; ABC, INC. (1-25); and JOHN DOE (1-25); said names ABC, Inc. (1-25), and John Doe (1-25), being fictitious, jointly, individually and in the alternative, Defendants.

OPINION

ANNE E. THOMPSON, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court upon two motions by Defendant Crown Equipment Corporation ("Defendant"): (1) a Motion to Preclude the Testimony of Plaintiff's Expert, Bruce Gorsak, (Doc. No. 38); and (2) a Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 39). Plaintiffs oppose. (Doc. Nos. 40, 41). The Court has considered the motions and reached a decision based upon the written and oral submissions of the parties. For the reasons included herein, the Court grants both of Defendant's motions.

BACKGROUND

This action originates from the filing of Plaintiff's May 26, 2011 Complaint in New Jersey Superior Court, Somerset County. (Doc. No. 1, Att. 1, Ex. A). On June 27, 2011, Defendant filed a notice of removal, (Doc. No. 1, Not. of Removal), and on June 4, 2012, this Court permitted Plaintiffs to amend their Complaint and denied Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment without prejudice pending discovery. (Doc. Nos. 21, 22).

The facts of the underlying matter are as follows. On July 12, 2009, Plaintiff Keith Dymnioski ("Mr. Dymnioski") was injured during the course of his employment while operating a Crown stand-up rider forklift, model RC 5535-30. (Doc. No. 39, Att. 1, Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, "SUMF, " at ¶ 2).[1] Specifically, his leg was seriously injured when it "was able to leave" the operator compartment and the forklift struck a building column. (Doc. No. 23, Amd. Compl. at ¶ 2; SUMF at ¶¶ 3-4).

Plaintiffs allege that the subject forklift was defectively designed because Defendant failed to equip the lift with an operator compartment door and because Defendant failed to implement a prevention algorithm in the lift's braking system. (SUMF at ¶ 5). According to Plaintiffs, these design defects existed at the time the Crown RC5500 was in the possession and control of Defendant, (Amd. Compl. at ¶ 3), and without them, Mr. Dymnioski's injuries would not have occurred. (SUMF at ¶ 5).[2]

In support of their claims that the forklift was defective in design due to the lack of a door enclosing the operator compartment and a prevention algorithm in the forklift's braking system, Plaintiffs have offered the testimony of Bruce Gorsak ("Mr. Gorsak"). ( See Doc. No. 38, Att. 3, Ex. F, Gorsak Report). Defendant argues that Mr. Gorsak is unqualified and has failed to support his opinions as required by Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 702. Defendant has accordingly moved to preclude Mr. Gorsak's testimony. (Doc. No. 38). Should the Court grant Defendant's motion and exclude Mr. Gorsak's testimony, Defendant has also moved for summary judgment based upon Plaintiffs' failure to proffer a qualified expert in support of their design defect claim. (Doc. No. 39).

Plaintiffs have opposed both motions, despite failing to submit either a responsive statement of undisputed material facts or a statement of disputed facts with their opposition to summary judgment. (Doc. Nos. 40, 41). On May 7, 2013, this Court held an oral hearing on the record in which both parties argued as to the admissibility of Mr. Gorsak's testimony and the matter of summary judgment. (Doc. No. 44). After due consideration of both the written and oral arguments of the parties, the Court now issues this Opinion.

DISCUSSION

Because Defendant's motion for summary judgment is contingent upon the exclusion of Mr. Gorsak's expert testimony, the Court will first address the motion to exclude before considering whether this matter is appropriate for Rule 56 dismissal.

1. Motion to Preclude Testimony of an Expert

Under Federal Rule of Evidence 702,

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 or to determine a fact in issue; (b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data; (c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles ...

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