United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
OPINION AND ORDER 
POLSTER CHAPPELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are Defendant Makita USA, Inc.’s Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment on Plaintiffs’ Strict
Liability and Negligence Claims (Doc. 87) and Motion
for Partial Summary Judgment on Plaintiffs’ Failure to
Warn Claims (Doc. 88), Defendant Home Depot USA,
Inc.’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc.
91), Defendants’ Motion to Strike or Exclude
Untimely Opinions of Dr. Charles E. Benedict (Doc.
89) and Motion to Exclude, as Unreliable, Expert
Testimony of Dr. Charles E. Benedict (Doc. 90), and
Plaintiffs John and Lori Landi’s responses (Doc.
98; Doc. 99; Doc. 104; Doc.
105; and Doc. 108).
products liability case arises from an injury John Landi
suffered while operating a miter saw manufactured by Makita
and allegedly purchased from Home Depot. Plaintiffs’
case relies in part on the opinions of their expert witness,
Dr. Charles E. Benedict. Defendants have asked the Court to
exclude Dr. Benedict’s testimony and grant them summary
judgment on certain claims.
following facts are undisputed. John Landi worked as a
general contractor beginning in 2009. (Doc. 102 at
23). Landi claims that in September 2014, he purchased a
Makita 10’ miter saw from Home Depot Store # 280 in
Naples, Florida. (Doc. 88 at 2; Doc. 105 at 4).
Landi says he told a Home Depot employee he was looking for a
saw that “would be able to cut crown molding,
baseboards, chair rail molding and wood flooring.”
(Doc. 102 at 64). The employee pointed Landi to the
Makita saw, Landi decided it was what he was looking for, and
the employee loaded a box onto Landi’s cart. (Doc.
102 at 64-65).
Landi took the saw home and opened the box, the saw appeared
to be new, but it did not include upper fences and a vertical
vise. (Doc. 102 at 90, 99). The saw was packaged
with an instruction manual, which Landi read and considered
“clear and understandable.” (Doc. 88).
The manual warns the user not to “perform any operation
freehand” or “use your hand to secure the
workpiece.” (Doc. 88-3 at 4). It instructs the
user to instead “ALWAYS use vise to secure
workpiece.” (Doc. 88-3 at 4).
October 8, 2015, Landi used the saw to cut a section of crown
molding, operating the saw with his right hand and holding
the crown molding with his left. (Doc. 102-1 at
24-29). While the blade was spinning, the piece of
molding was pulled to the right, Landi’s left arm went
with it, and the blade cut into Landi’s left forearm.
(Doc. 102-1 at 29-34).
Motion to Exclude Testimony of Dr. Benedict under
Rule of Evidence 702 provides the starting point when
considering the admissibility of expert testimony:
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 methods; and (d) the expert has
reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of
Fed. R. Evid. 702. In Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v.
Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999) and Daubert v.
Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993),
the Supreme Court held that trial courts have a gatekeeping
function designed to test expert evidence for relevance and
reliability. In performing this function, the Court applies a
“rigorous three-part inquiry” by considering
whether (1) the expert is qualified to testify competently
about the issues at hand, (2) the expert’s methodology
is sufficiently reliable, and (3) the expert’s
testimony helps the trier of fact understand the evidence or
determine a factual issue. U.S. Frazier, 387 F.3d
1244, 1260 (11th Cir. 2004). “While there is
inevitably some overlap among the basic
requirements-qualification, reliability, and helpfulness-they
remain distinct concepts and the courts must take care not to
conflate them.” Id. Defendants’
challenges span all three elements, and Plaintiffs must prove
each by a preponderance of the evidence. Id.
Benedict has worked as an engineer since 1971, when he earned
a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. (Doc. 99-1 at
19-24). Since then, he has co-authored more than 20
publications, filed over 100 patents (including one for a
miter saw blade guard) and testified in more than 200 trials.
(Doc. 99-1 at 21-23). In his expert report, Dr.
Benedict provided Defendants a list of twenty-one opinions he
planned to express at trial, including foreseeable ways users
will operate and alter the saw, dangerous defects in the
saw’s design, feasible alternative designs, steps
Makita could have taken to avoid the design defects, and how
the defects caused Landi’s injury. (Doc.
contend that while Dr. Benedict is an expert in some fields,
he is not “uniquely qualified” to opine about
miter saw design and manufacture, product warnings and
instructions, saw operation, biomedical engineering, or human
factor considerations relating to miter saws. (Doc. 90 at
7-11). To support their attack, Defendants list some
things Dr. Benedict has not done, like work for a power tool
manufacturer and design a saw that was sold to the public.
(Doc. 90 at 9). But Defendants set an impossibly
high standard. A person need not be “uniquely
qualified” to testify as an expert, and Dr.
Benedict’s failure to gain expertise one way (e.g.,
working for a manufacturer), does not invalidate his
education, training, and over 40 years of experience as a
mechanical engineer. The Court finds that Dr. Benedict is
qualified under Rule 702 to testify about the matters he
intends to address.
the guise of attacking Dr. Benedict’s methodology,
Defendants let fly a bevy of reasons Dr. Benedict’s
opinions are unpersuasive. (Doc. 90 at 12-16). But
when performing its gatekeeping function, the Court is
concerned with admissibility, not the credibility of Dr.
Benedict or the weight of his testimony. Defendants may
instead use “traditional and appropriate means of
attacking” Dr. Benedict’s testimony, such as
“[v]igorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary
evidence, and careful instruction on the burden of
proof.” Daubert, 509 U.S. at 596. 3.
Helpfulness Defendants confront the helpfulness of
Dr. Benedict’s opinions as they attacked reliability,
by listing reasons the trier of fact should not believe him.
These points are appropriate fodder for cross-examination;
they do not render Dr. Benedict’s opinions
inadmissible. The Court finds that Dr. Benedict’s
testimony will help the jury understand the evidence and
decide whether a defect in the saw caused Landi’s
injury. It is up to the jury to decide whether Dr.
Benedict’s conclusions are correct.
Motion to Strike or Exclude Untimely Opinions of Dr.
their next motion, Defendants accuse Dr. Benedict of
withholding biomechanical engineering opinions from his
report before disclosing them at his deposition, months after
the deadline to disclose expert reports. Defendants ask the
Court to preclude Dr. Benedict from “rendering any
biomechanical engineering opinions at the trial” and
“from commenting, critically or otherwise, on the
opinions of Defendants’ biomechanical engineering
expert.” (Doc. 89 at 13). But Defendants have
drawn no clear line between the mechanical engineering
opinions in ...