Casey v. Geek Squad® Subsidiary Best Buy Stores, L.P.

Decision Date10 November 2011
Docket NumberCivil No. PWG–10–2268.
Citation823 F.Supp.2d 334,86 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. 1484
PartiesCharles CASEY and Jeannette Casey, Plaintiffs, v. GEEK SQUAD® SUBSIDIARY BEST BUY STORES, L.P., Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts


Sandra B. Minton, Nead Karey and Minton LLP, Robert K. Nead, Nead Minton & Ferris LLP, Baltimore, MD, for Plaintiffs.

Christopher R. Dunn, Decaro Doran Siciliano Gallagher and DeBlasis LLP, Bowie, MD.


PAUL W. GRIMM, United States Magistrate Judge.

This Memorandum and Order addresses the Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 19, filed by Defendant GEEK Squad® Subsidiary Best Buy Stores, L.P. (“Geek Squad”); Plaintiffs Charles Casey and Jeanette Casey's Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (“Pls.' S.J. Resp.”), ECF No. 21; and Defendant's Reply to Plaintiffs' Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (“Def.'s S.J. Reply”), ECF No. 24.1 It also addresses Defendant's Motion In Limine to Exclude Plaintiffs' Expert Witness Dr. Clark Riley, ECF No. 20; Plaintiffs' Response to Defendant's Motion In Limine, ECF No. 22; and Defendant's Reply to Plaintiffs' Opposition to Defendant's Motion In Limine to Exclude Plaintiffs' Expert Witness Dr. Clark Riley, ECF No. 23.

I find that a hearing is unnecessary in this case. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the reasons stated herein, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED. Defendant's Motion In Limine to Exclude Plaintiffs' Expert Witness Dr. Clark Riley also is GRANTED. This Memorandum and Order therefore disposes of ECF Nos. 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24.


In reviewing the evidence related to a motion for summary judgment, the Court considers the facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 129 S.Ct. 2658, 2677, 174 L.Ed.2d 490 (2009); George & Co., LLC v. Imagination Entm't Ltd., 575 F.3d 383, 391–92 (4th Cir.2009); Dean v. Martinez, 336 F.Supp.2d 477, 480 (D.Md.2004). Unless otherwise stated, the background provided below is comprised of undisputed facts. Where a dispute exists, however, the facts are considered in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs.

On or about September 8, 2007, Mr. Casey brought his personal computer to Defendant Best Buy Stores, L.P.'s Timonium, Maryland store for servicing by Geek Squad technicians.2 Compl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 1; Defs.' Mem. Supp. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. (“Def.'s S.J. Mem.”) 1, ECF No. 19–1. A Geek Squad technician diagnosed Mr. Casey's computer with a computer virus, Pls.' S.J. Resp. 1–2, and took the computer for servicing, id. at 2. While doing so, Geek Squad technicians removed the computer virus, installed an operating system, cleaned out temporary files, and defragmented and scanned the disk. Id. Technicians also disassembled and inspected Mr. Casey's computer. Id.; Service Order 1, Pls.' S.J. Resp. Ex. G, ECF No. 21–7. Mr. Casey was informed that his computer was available for pickup on October 22, 2007, but when he arrived, Geek Squad technicians informed Mr. Casey that, after servicing, the computer's hardware components no longer fit inside the computer tower. Def.'s S.J. Mem. 2; Pls.' S.J. Resp. 2–3. Replacement of the CD drive was necessary so that all hardware components would fit into the tower. Pls.' S.J. Resp. 3. Later that day, after waiting for the drive to be installed, Mr. Casey brought the computer home, returned it to the computer desk where it was stored prior to servicing, connected the cables, and began working on the computer. See Def.'s S.J. Mem 2; Pls.' S.J. Resp. 3. Between September 11, 2007, when the computer was brought to the Geek Squad for servicing, and October 22, 2007, when the Plaintiff returned home with the computer, no changes were made to the area around the computer desk where the computer was located. Compl. ¶ 12. In that same time period, “no changes were made to the electrical system within Plaintiff's home,” and no electrical surges were reported within Plaintiff's home. Id. ¶¶ 13–14.

Approximately two hours later, Mr. Casey attempted to print a document from the computer. See Def.'s S.J. Mem. 2. Upon receiving an error message, he realized that the computer tower was not connected to the printer. Id. Then, stabilizing the front of the computer with his left hand, Mr. Casey reached around the back of the computer with his right hand to locate the printer cable. Pls.' S.J. Resp. 3. While Mr. Casey was reaching behind the computer tower, he received a severe electric shock, causing significant injuries. Id.; Compl. ¶¶ 15–23. There is some disagreement between Plaintiffs and Defendant about Mr. Casey's actions while reaching behind the computer. Defendant states that Mr. Casey “was shocked only after attempting to plug the printer into the back of the computer tower.” Def.'s S.J. Mem 6. Plaintiffs state that Mr. Casey “had nothing in his hand and had not touched the printer or its cable at the time of the electrical shock. His hand was behind the computer tower—not on the printer or the printer cable.” 3 Pls.' S.J. Resp. 13.

Plaintiffs filed a three-count complaint in federal court on August 19, 2010. Compl. 7–9. First, Mr. Casey alleged negligence and/or negligent omission, claiming that Defendant “had a duty to repair the Plaintiff's identified computer in such a manner as to restore the computer to its pre-repair condition ... and without danger to the Plaintiff; that Defendant breached its duty by negligently repairing the computer and failing to restore it to its pre-servicing condition; that, but for Defendant's negligence, Mr. Casey would not have been shocked; and that, as a result of Defendant's conduct, Plaintiff sustained extensive injuries and mental anguish and further experienced significant damages and losses.” Compl. ¶ 32. Mr. Casey also denied any contributory negligence. Id. ¶ 33. Second, Mr. Casey alleged “breach of warranty of fitness for use,” claiming that Defendant “holds itself out as a provider of service to consumers relating to computer repairs and maintenance”; that Mr. Casey “had a reasonable expectation that the computer returned to him would be in working condition”; and that Defendant “breached its warranty when it returned a defective computer to Plaintiff that caused injury. Id. ¶ 35. Finally, Plaintiffs Mr. and Mrs. Casey alleged loss of consortium, claiming that [a]s a result of Defendant's negligence, for more than a year Charles Casey was no longer able to perform any duties around the home, or to provide for his own care, or to share activities with his wife of over fifty years.” Id. ¶ 38. In light of these three claims, Plaintiffs' Complaint requested compensatory damages, costs, fees, interest, and any other appropriate relief. Id. at 9.

Several months later, Defendant filed two motions—a Motion for Summary Judgment and a Motion In Limine to exclude the testimony of Plaintiffs' expert, Dr. Clark Riley. Dr. Riley's testimony is essential to the merits of Plaintiffs' case because it seeks to establish causation; therefore, it is appropriate to consider Defendant's Motion In Limine first.


Under Fed.R.Evid. 104(a), the Court is tasked with determining [p]reliminary questions concerning the qualification of a person to be a witness, the existence of a privilege, or the admissibility of evidence,” including the admissibility of expert testimony under Fed.R.Evid. 702. Rule 702 permits expert testimony “if it concerns (1) scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge that (2) will aid the jury or other trier of fact to understand or resolve a fact at issue.” Westberry v. Gislaved Gummi AB, 178 F.3d 257, 260 (4th Cir.1999) (citing Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 592, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993)). Additionally, the rule requires that an expert's opinions be based on sufficient facts and reliable methodology that has been applied reliably to the facts of the case. Fed.R.Evid. 702(1)-(3). Simply put, the Court must review expert testimony to “ensur[e] that [it] both rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand.” Daubert, 509 U.S. at 597, 113 S.Ct. 2786; see also Samuel v. Ford Motor Co., 96 F.Supp.2d 491, 493 (D.Md.2000) ([F]ederal trial courts are required, pursuant to Rule 104(a) ... to screen scientific or technical evidence before it may be considered by the jury, to insure that it is both reliable, and relevant. Otherwise, it is not ‘helpful’ as required by Rule 702.”). “The party seeking admission of the expert testimony bears the burden of establishing admissibility by a preponderance of the evidence.” Fireman's Fund Ins. Co. v. Tecumseh Prods. Co., 767 F.Supp.2d 549, 553 (D.Md.2011). Except for the rules related to privilege, the Rules of Evidence are not strictly applied in the Court's Rule 104(a) determination. See Fed.R.Evid. 104(a).

In reviewing the reliability of an expert's testimony, the Court must ask “whether [the expert's opinion] is supported by adequate validation to render it trustworthy.” Westberry, 178 F.3d at 260. In conducting this review, “the court has broad latitude to consider whatever factors bearing on validity that the court finds to be useful; the particular factors will depend upon the unique circumstances of the expert testimony involved.” Id. at 261 (citing Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 150–51, 119 S.Ct. 1167, 143 L.Ed.2d 238 (1999)). As noted, Rule 702 provides three factors for the Court to consider: (1) [whether] the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) [whether] the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) [whether] the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.’ United States v. Willock, 696 F.Supp.2d. 536, 562 (D.Md.2010) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Evid. 702).

In its capacity as a “gatekeeper” of expert evidence, the Court must exclude...

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