About Eric M. Friedman

Eric Friedman guides clients through all stages of product liability litigation, particularly working with expert witnesses to present the science behind clients' products. By leaning on his pre-law history as a biochemist, he is able to identify key arguments for and against clients and craft winning strategies for both motion practice and trial.

Northern District of Illinois Excludes Engineering Expert’s Testimony and Grants Partial Summary Judgment, Fulfilling its Responsibility as Gatekeeper

For over two decades, dating back to Daubert and the ensuing amendments to Rule 702, federal district courts have been charged to act “as gatekeepers to exclude unreliable expert testimony.” Fed. R. Evid. 702 advisory committee’s note to 2000 amendments. However, some courts have not embraced that role, letting jurors weigh questions about an expert’s qualifications or methodology as though they go to credibility rather than admissibility. Indeed, the Advisory Committee on Evidence Rules proposed an amendment to Rule 702 to address the “pervasive problem” of courts holding that issues of admissibility are questions “of weight for the jury.” See, Sardis v. Overhead Door Corp., 10 F.4th 268, 282-84 (4th Cir. 2021). (quoting Advisory Comm. on Evidence Rules, Agenda for Committee Meeting (Apr. 30, 2021)).

A recent decision out of the Northern District of Illinois, however, provides an excellent example of a court discharging its duty to preclude inadmissible expert opinions. The Plaintiff in Pessman v. Trek Bicycle Corporation, 2021 WL 5769530 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 6, 2021) was injured in a bicycle accident. Plaintiff’s engineering expert opined that the cause of the accident was a crack in the carbon fiber frame of Plaintiff’s Trek bicycle attributable to a design defect. The engineer claimed that carbon fiber frames are prone to cracking and that the crack was mistaken for simple paint chipping by a dealer who had inspected the bicycle several days before the accident, allegedly due to Trek’s failure to train the dealer properly.

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Seventh Circuit Holds that State Court Limit on Medical Expert Testimony Does Not Apply to FTCA Claim in Federal Court

Although product liability actions are governed by state tort law, they frequently find their way into federal court on diversity jurisdiction. In such actions, federal law provides the procedural rules and state law provides the rule of decision. Although the distinction between procedure and substance is often clear, it can sometimes be nuanced and unintuitive; for example, statutes of limitations are typically viewed as procedural, whereas statutes of repose are viewed as substantive. In Love v. United States, — F.4th — (7th Cir. 2021), 2021 WL 5119342, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals provides another such illustration of this nuanced distinction and further guidance on the subject in the context of the admissibility of expert opinions.

The Plaintiff in Love brought suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), alleging that a nurse employed by the Veterans Administration negligently failed to order additional tests after receiving the results of a urinalysis. Plaintiff alleged that the lack of testing allowed an infection to go undiagnosed and untreated, leading to a heart attack and extended hospitalization.

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Treating Physician’s Informed Consent Process and Decision-Making in Device Selection Lead to Partial Summary Judgment for Device Manufacturer

A series of recent rulings out of the Southern District of Texas in an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter case reflect how well-planned discovery can lead to a successful multipronged summary judgment motion and can effectively prune a plaintiff’s ambitious product defect claims. Conn v. C.R. Bard, Inc., No. 4:14-CV-298.

In 2006, plaintiff’s physicians discovered a blood clot in his inferior vena cava. An IVC filter was inserted to prevent the blood clot from causing potentially fatal further injury. Because of plaintiff’s young age, the physician chose a removable filter. Plaintiff reported abdominal pain just four days after the IVC filter was placed. The blood clot was found to have moved and extended through and above the recently placed filter, and the physicians initiated anticoagulant therapy.

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FDA Approves First Interchangeable Biological Product Under BPCIA

On July 28, the FDA approved the country’s first interchangeable biosimilar product. Semglee (insulin glargine-yfgn) is both biosimilar to, and interchangeable with, its reference product Lantus (insulin glargine).

Under the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA), biological products (e.g., vaccines and therapeutic antibodies) may come to market by showing that they are “biosimilar” to or “interchangeable” with a “reference product,” which is a biological product that has already been approved by the FDA. A biological product is “biosimilar” if it is “highly similar to the reference product notwithstanding minor differences in clinically inactive components” and “there are no clinically meaningful differences between the biological product and the reference product in terms of the safety, purity, and potency of the product.” 42 U.S.C. § 262(i)(2). To date, 28 biological products have been approved as biosimilars.

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Failure to Fully Disclose Expert Opinions Results in Summary Judgment

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2) requires retained expert witnesses to provide an expert report which gives “a complete statement of all opinions the witness will express and the basis and reasons for them.”  Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2)(B)(i).  If a party fails to disclose information required under Rule 26(a)(2), “the party is not allowed to use that information or witness to supply evidence on a motion, at a hearing, or at a trial, unless the failure was substantially justified or is harmless.”  Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(c)(1).  As a plaintiff in the Western District of Washington recently learned, failure to adhere to Rule 26 can be fatal to a case.

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Western District of Louisiana Says Plaintiff’s Marine Engineering Expert’s Opinions Don’t Hold Water

It is not often that a federal district court limits an expert witness’s proffered testimony on the ground that the expert is not qualified to offer it, and it is also uncommon for a court to exclude expert testimony on the ground that it would not assist the trier of fact. However, the Western District of Louisiana recently limited a proffered engineering expert’s testimony on both of those grounds.

In Terral River Service, Inc. v. SCF Marine, Inc., No. 3:19-CV-00406, Plaintiff purchased a barge from Defendant and later found it partially submerged due to a fracture in the bow. The parties disputed the timing of the fracture, with Plaintiff alleging that it existed prior to delivery of the barge. Plaintiff offered as an expert witness a metallurgical and mechanical engineer with experience in evaluating barge fractures.

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