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Cerrato v. Nutribullet, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

November 7, 2017

PHYLLIS B. CERRATO and GERMAN CERRATO, Plaintiffs,
v.
NUTRIBULLET, LLC and CAPITAL BRANDS, LLC, Defendants.

          ORDER

          SUSAN C. BUCKLEW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This cause comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Strike the Testimony of Plaintiffs' Expert and Motion in Limine to Preclude His Testimony. (Doc. No. 52). Plaintiffs oppose the motion. (Doc. No. 61). As explained below, the motion is denied in large part.

         I. Background[1]

         Plaintiffs Phyllis and German Cerrato bought Defendants' Nutribullet Pro 900 blender on December 20, 2014. Once home with the blender, Mrs. Cerrato opened the blender and placed ingredients inside it to make a smoothie. The ingredients she used were tap water, ice cubes, a cup of refrigerated beet leaves, half of a refrigerated avocado, a handful of refrigerated blueberries, one banana, and one half of an apple. (Doc. No. 26-4, depo. p. 50-53). She turned the blender on, and once the ingredients reached her desired consistency, she attempted to turn the blender off, but she contends that she was unable to do so.

         The blender does not have an “on/off” switch. Instead, the blender consists of a cup that holds the ingredients to be blended, a lid that contains the blending blades, and a base that contains the motor. There are three locking tabs on the cup that are used to physically secure the cup onto the motor base. When the cup is twisted into the base, the motor turns on; when the cup is twisted off the base, the motor turns off.

         Because Mrs. Cerrato was unable to twist the cup off and stop the motor, she unplugged the blender to make it stop. She contends that she waited approximately twenty minutes for it to cool down before trying to open it. When Mrs. Cerrato tried to open the lid, the contents inside the cup exploded, severely burning her and causing property damage to her kitchen.

         As a result of the incident, Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendants, asserting three claims. In Count I, Plaintiffs assert a negligence claim based on Defendants' alleged defective design of the blender and alleged inadequate warnings of serious injury that could result from the blender overheating. In Count II, Plaintiffs assert a strict liability claim, alleging that the blender's design and inadequate warnings made it defective and unreasonably dangerous. In Count III, Plaintiffs assert a breach of express and implied warranties claim.

         Plaintiffs' expert, Dr. Glen Stevick, has opined that the subject blender has the following defects: (1) there is no pressure relief device built into the blender cup; (2) there are no indicators for pressure buildup; (3) there is no obvious way to judge the danger of, or amount of, pressure and heat buildup without handling the cup directly, thereby exposing the user to the release of hot contents; (4) the temperature limit of the HTTS (a device inside the blender that turns the blender off when it detects high temperature conditions) is far too high to protect the user, as it is well above the water boiling temperature; (5) the HTTS does not limit the temperature of the blender or protect the user from hot and pressurized contents; (6) the location of the HTTS prevents it from protecting the user, because it is located directly above the exhaust fan; (7) there are no timers in the electrical control system, and since the amount of energy added to the contents blended is directly proportional to the time the motor is running, a motor shut-off timer is crucial in safeguarding the user; (8) without a motor timer and/or a second thermal cut-off switch, the design is defective; and (9) the warnings provided by Defendants do not adequately inform the user of the temperature and pressure dangers that can cause bodily injury. (Doc. No. 51-1).

         II. Motion to Strike Based on Daubert

         Defendants move to Strike Dr. Stevick's expert testimony based on Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). Rule 702 provides the following:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and ...

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