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Provanzano v. MTD Products Co.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 17, 2016

Anthony Provanzano, Plaintiff,
v.
MTD Products Co. et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Nathaniel M. Gorton United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Anthony Provanzano (“plaintiff”) brought this lawsuit against defendants MTD Products Co. and Lowe's Home Centers, LLC (collectively, “defendants”) arising out of an accident on a riding lawn mower during which four of plaintiff's fingers were amputated.

         Each party filed a motion in limine to exclude the testimony of the other party's expert witness. For the following reasons, defendants' motion to exclude the testimony of Mr. Kevin Sevart will be denied and plaintiff's motion to exclude the testimony of Dr. Sandra Metzler will be denied.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Late in the afternoon of October 12, 2014, Provanzano began to mow his lawn. After making a few passes around his yard, he surmised that the blade on his riding mower might be clogged. He dismounted the mower and reached under the mower's cutting deck. When he removed his hand, he realized that his fingers were badly injured. Ultimately, four of Provanzano's fingers were amputated.

         Plaintiff filed a complaint against defendants in Massachusetts state court in March, 2015, alleging four causes of action against each defendant: 1) breach of implied and express warranty, 2) negligence, 3) violations of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act (M.G.L. c. 93A) and 4) double or treble damages under that same statute. In April, 2015, defendants removed plaintiff's case to this Court and subsequently filed answers to each of the counts.

         Currently before this Court are defendants' motion in limine to exclude the testimony of Mr. Kevin Sevart and plaintiff's motion in limine to exclude the testimony of Dr. Sandra Metzler.

         II. Motions in Limine

         A. Legal Standard

         The admission of expert evidence is governed by Fed.R.Evid. 702 which codified the Supreme Court's holding in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), and its progeny. United States v. Diaz, 300 F.3d 66, 73 (1st Cir. 2002). Rule 702 charges a district court with determining whether: 1) “scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact, ” 2) the expert is qualified “by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education” to testify on that subject, 3) the expert's proposed testimony is based upon “sufficient facts or data, ” 4) that testimony is the product of “reliable principles and methods” and 5) the expert “applies the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.” The Court must be vigilant in exercising its gatekeeper role because of the latitude given to expert witnesses to express their opinions on matters about which they have no firsthand knowledge and because an expert's testimony may be given substantial weight by the jury due to the expert's status. See Daubert, 509 U.S. at 595; Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 148 (1999).

         The Court must nonetheless keep in mind that vigorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence and careful instruction on the burden of proof are the traditional and appropriate means of attacking shaky but admissible evidence. Daubert, 509 U.S. at 596. If an expert's testimony is within “the range where experts might reasonably differ, ” the jury, not the trial court, should be the one to decide among the conflicting views of different experts. Kumho Tire, 526 U.S. at 153. When a dispute exists between two experts who both use reliable methods, that dispute “[goes] to the weight, not the admissibility, of the testimony.” Cummings v. Standard Register Co., 265 F.3d 56, 65 (1st Cir. 2001).

         B. Application

         1. Mr. Kevin Sevart

         Plaintiff plans to have Kevin Sevart testify as an expert witness regarding the defects in defendants' lawn mower and the causation of plaintiff's injuries. Mr. Sevart is a licensed mechanical engineer with a specific focus on outdoor power equipment. He concludes that the lawn mower was defective 1) in its design as to certain characteristics relating to the stopping time of the mower's blade, 2) the design of the layout of certain controls and 3) in its warnings. He ...


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