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To assess an expert's methodology under Fed. R. Evid. 702, Daubert and Kumho Tire, a district court must, according to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, be mindful of the following factors: (1) whether a method consists of a testable hypothesis; (2) whether the method has been subjected to peer review; (3) the known or potential rate of error; (4) the existence and maintenance of standards controlling the technique's operation; (5) whether the method is generally accepted; (6) the relationship of the technique to methods which have been established to be reliable; (7) the qualifications of the expert witness testifying based on the methodology; and (8) the non-judicial uses to which the method has been put.
Plaintiffs’ house was destroyed by fire. The parties agree that the fire began in the northeast corner of the kitchen. A number of appliances were located in that area of the kitchen, including a dishwasher, a toaster oven, and a microwave. Plaintiffs asserted the toaster caused the fire. The toaster was manufactured by defendant. Plaintiffs sued the defendant under three theories: strict liability, negligence and breach of warranty. Plaintiffs proffered an expert testimony which indicated that the oven toaster was the cause of the fire. Defendant moved for summary judgment, claiming that the plaintiffs failed to prove the toaster was defective and caused the fire.
Did the plaintiffs fail to prove that the toaster was the cause of the fire, thereby warranting the grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant?
The court granted summary judgment, finding plaintiffs' expert witness had not provided sufficient evidence for the court to conclude that his methodology was reliable. The expert hypothesized that the fire was caused by a spontaneous welding of contacts in the toaster that caused the toaster to overheat and combust. However, he never attempted to recreate this phenomenon with a similar or identical toaster, something that he conceded could have been done. There was no evidence that the method he applied was subject to peer review, had a known or potential rate of error, could be measured by existing standards, or was generally accepted.