The Georgia Court of Appeals has unanimously ruled for PLG client LG Electronics in Cash v. LG Electronics, a products-liability suit brought by survivors of a Dacula, GA house fire that killed two of their family members.
The fire originated in an area of the family's living room that included several items, including an LG television. The local fire department and LG's experts concluded that the television had not caused the fire, but the family's expert claimed otherwise. His opinion, however, was not supported by his own testing. Although the tests sought to show how the fire occurred, the expert was unable to obtain ignition without repeatedly manipulating the test set-up in a way that did not reflect the conditions in existence on the day of the fire. LG moved to exclude the expert’s testimony on the grounds that his methodology was unreliable and that his conclusions lacked an adequate foundation. The trial court granted LG's motion and, because the plaintiffs could not prove their case without their expert, the court awarded summary judgment to LG.
On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that their expert's testing was scientifically sound and should have been admitted. In their view, the trial court excluded the testimony not because it was scientifically unreliable but because the judge disagreed with the expert's conclusion--an impermissible basis for exclusion. We defended the lower court's ruling, acknowledging the tragedy that the fire wrought but arguing that the dimensions of the tragedy should not be compounded by placing blame where it does not belong.
With Judge Miller writing, and Judges Doyle and Reese joining, the Court agreed with the trial court and accepted all of LG's arguments. The Court held that, by excluding the expert's testimony, the trial judge was fulfilling her role as a gate-keeper charged under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993), with ensuring that expert testimony is relevant and reliable. The court reasoned that the analytical gap between the testing data and the expert's opinion was simply too great to render the testimony admissible. The court also upheld the trial court's award of summary judgment to LG because, without the expert's testimony, the plaintiffs could not prove the necessary element of causation.
The appellate court's opinion can be read here. The appeal was handled by PLG attorneys John Moss and Ayesha N. Khan; it was argued by Khan in May 2017. You can read LG's brief here. LG Electronics was represented at the trial level by PLG's Moss and Edward Bresee and Arthur Park of Mozlay, Mozley, Finlayson & Loggins, LLP, an Atlanta law firm.