Provanzano v. MTD Products Company, et al
Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton: ENDORSED ORDER entered. MEMORANDUM AND ORDER,For the foregoing reasons, 1) Defendants motion to exclude the testimony of Mr. Kevin Sevart (Docket No. 38) is DENIED and2) Plaintiffs motion to exclude the testimony of Dr. Sandra Metzler (Docket No. 53) is DENIED. So ordered.(Caruso, Stephanie)
United States District Court
District of Massachusetts
MTD Products Co. et al.,
Civil Action No.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
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.
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.
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
When he removed his hand, he realized that his fingers
were badly injured.
Ultimately, four of Provanzano’s fingers
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.
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.
Motions in Limine
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
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
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).
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
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 also concludes
that there is a causal connection between plaintiff’s accident
and the defects associated with the subject mower.
Defendants respond that Mr. Sevart’s opinions on causation
should be excluded because 1) they are speculative and lack
evidentiary and analytical support and 2) Mr. Sevart did not
perform an accident reconstruction or a time-to-blade-access
analysis of plaintiff’s testimony.
Defendants’ arguments about the speculative nature of and
lack of support for Mr. Sevart’s testimony amount to
disagreements with his conclusions.
Such disagreements are not,
however, proper grounds for exclusion. See WBIP, LLC v. Kohler
Co., 965 F. Supp. 2d 170, 173 (D. Mass. 2013).
failure to consider particular variables or to use certain
methods is not fatal to an expert’s testimony. See Cummings, 265
F.3d at 65.
Defendants’ objections to Mr. Sevart’s testimony
“[go] to the weight, not the admissibility, of the testimony.”
Defendants further aver that Mr. Sevart lacks the
qualifications to testify about riding lawn mowers.
Mr. Sevart has neither been employed by an outdoor power
equipment manufacturer nor designed a riding mower for consumer
use himself, he is not thereby disqualified from testifying
about the alleged defects in the lawn mower in this case.
Sevart is a licensed engineer with almost 30 years of experience
and has previously testified in products liability cases
involving lawn mowers.
He is qualified to testify. See
Diefenbach v. Sheridan Transp., 229 F.3d 27, 31 (1st Cir. 2000)
(affirming district court’s decision to allow a licensed sea
captain to testify based on his credentials even though he had
never served on the vessel at issue in the case).
Consequently, the Court will deny defendants’ motion to
exclude Mr. Sevart’s expert testimony.
Dr. Sandra Metzler
Defendants plan to call Dr. Sandra Metzler to testify as an
expert witness concerning the bio-mechanics and timing of
Dr. Metzler is a bio-mechanical engineer
with extensive training and education in human bio-mechanics,
mechanical engineering and human factors analysis.
performed a bio-mechanical task analysis of plaintiff’s accident
as plaintiff described it during his deposition in order to form
her opinion on the timing and bio-mechanics of plaintiff’s
Plaintiff complains that Dr. Metzler’s opinions are outside
the scope of permissible expert testimony and unsupported by
reliable scientific methodology.
The disagreements with Dr.
Metzler’s choice of methodology and conclusions go to the weight
but not the admissibility of her testimony. See Cummings, 265
F.3d at 65.
Plaintiff also contends that Dr. Metzler is not qualified
as an accident reconstructionist.
She has performed task
analyses of events similar to those at issue here, however, as a
part of her bio-mechanical and human factors training.
Plaintiff’s concerns with Dr. Metzler’s testimony are more
appropriately addressed by vigorous cross-examination during
Accordingly, the Court will deny plaintiff’s motion to
exclude Dr. Metzler’s expert testimony.
For the foregoing reasons,
1) Defendants’ motion to exclude the testimony of Mr. Kevin
Sevart (Docket No. 38) is DENIED and
2) Plaintiff’s motion to exclude the testimony of Dr. Sandra
Metzler (Docket No. 53) is DENIED.
/s/ Nathaniel M. Gorton_____
Nathaniel M. Gorton
United States District Judge
Dated October 17, 2016
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