Law School Case Brief
Ask Chems., LP v. Comput. Packages, Inc. - 593 F. App'x 506 (6th Cir. 2014)
Fed. R. Evid. 702(b) requires that an expert's opinion be based on sufficient facts or data. Fed. R. Evid. 702(c) requires that the expert's testimony is the product of both reliable principles and methods. A district court must concentrate solely on principles and methodology, not on the conclusions that they generate. However, a district court is not required to admit expert testimony that is connected to existing data only by the ipse dixit of the expert. A court may conclude that there is simply too great an analytical gap between the data and the opinion proffered.
Plaintiff appellant ASK Chemicals, as the assignee of a now-expired Japanese patent, filed an action for damages based on breach of contract against defendant appellee Computer Packaging. A technology patent was assigned by Ashland to the plaintiff. Ashland had hired the defendant to pay the annual fees due to its patents in Japan while it was still the holder of the patent. Defendant continued to maintain the patent even after its assignment to plaintiff. However, defendant failed to make the ninth necessary payment, and the patent was not maintained. Plaintiff claimed damages resulting from defendant's failure to maintain the patent on plaintiff's behalf. The district court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment, as well as its motion to exclude the report proffered by the plaintiff’s sole expert witness. In its appeal, plaintiff argued that the district court erred in granting defendant's motion to exclude the expert testimony of Brian Russell because his methods were unreliable.
Under Fed. R. Evid. 702, can a federal court exclude an expert's report from evidence because his methods were unreliable?
The United States Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment. First, the Court ruled that the district court was within its discretion to determine that the lack of independent verification or analysis of the revenue projections rendered the expert's opinion unreliable. Although expert Russell had sufficient specialized knowledge to offer evidence as an expert, the district court correctly found that the other requirement of Fed. R. Evid. 702 were not satisfied. Given the unreasonableness of expert Russell's methods, the faulty and incomplete data upon which they were based, and the general unreliability of the evidence, the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding Russell's testimony. Next, the Court addressed the grant of summary judgment. Because there was no way that the evidence submitted could lead a court to determine the amount of lost profits to a reasonable certainty, there was no genuine dispute of material fact for a jury. Plaintiff appellant ASK's evidentiary submissions, even though voluminous, did little to establish a specific sum necessary to meet the standard of a "reasonable certainty."
As for the standards of review, the Court explained that it reviews the a district court's exclusion of the testimony of an expert witness, as it reviews all evidentiary rulings, for abuse of discretion. The Court reviews a district court's grant of summary judgment de novo.
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