Pride v. BIC Corporation, No. 98-6422

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBOGGS
Citation218 F.3d 566
Parties(6th Cir. 2000) Bethie Pride, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. BIC Corporation; Societe BIC, S.A., Defendants-Appellees. Argued:
Decision Date25 April 2000
Docket NumberNo. 98-6422

Page 566

218 F.3d 566 (6th Cir. 2000)
Bethie Pride, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
BIC Corporation; Societe BIC, S.A., Defendants-Appellees.
No. 98-6422
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
Argued: April 25, 2000
Decided and Filed: July 7, 2000

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Knoxville; No. 96-00445--James H. Jarvis, District Judge.

Page 567

Copyrighted Material Omitted

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Sidney W. Gilreath, R. Christopher Gilreath, GILREATH & ASSOCIATES, Knoxville, Tennessee, John W. Andrews, John Troy Andrews, ANDREWS LAW GROUP, Tampa, Florida, for Appellant.

Joseph R. Wheeler, Thomas I. Carlton, Jr., CORNELIUS & COLLINS, Nashville, Tennessee, Robert R. Campbell, Hodges, Doughty & Carson, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Defendants-Appellees.

Chilton Davis Varner, Robert K. Woo, Jr., KING & SPALDING, Atlanta, Georgia, Hugh F. Young, Jr., PRODUCT LIABILITY ADVISORY COUNCIL, INC., Reston, Virginia, for Amicus Curiae.

Before: RYAN and BOGGS, Circuit Judges; and DUGGAN, District Judge.*

OPINION

BOGGS, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff-Appellant Bethie Pride sued the defendants, BIC Corporation and Societe BIC, S.A. (BIC), the marketers of the BIC J-6 fixed flame model cigarette lighter,1 for the death of her late husband, Carl L. Pride. Mr. Pride sustained fatal third-degree burns after one of the J-6 model lighters allegedly first failed to extinguish, causing his clothing to ignite, and then exploded, peppering him with isobutane fluid that fueled the conflagration that killed him. Although the case was originally scheduled for jury trial on April 14, 1998, the district court continued the trial date pending an evidentiary hearing on BIC's motion to exclude the testimony of Pride's expert witnesses. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), the court referred all pretrial motions to a United States magistrate judge who conducted an evidentiary hearing on the admissibility of Pride's expert witness testimony and, on May 12, 1998, entered an order disposing of all of the parties' non-dispositive pretrial motions. The magistrate judge also submitted a report recommending that the district court exclude the testimony of Pride's expert witnesses and also grant BIC's motion for summary judgment. Pride now appeals the district court's order adopting the magistrate judge's report and recommendation and denying five motions filed by Pride after the magistrate judge submitted his report. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the district court's order granting summary judgment for BIC and the court's other challenged rulings.

I

Basic Facts

On the afternoon of April 3, 1995, 60-year-old Carl Pride (Mr. Pride) went behind his house to check on a drain pipe. A neighbor, Billy Gunter, testified by deposition that he saw Mr. Pride examining the drain and that he saw no fires or flames burning in the area where Mr. Pride was working. Gunter went to lie down and, a few minutes later (approximately 15 to 25 minutes after Mr. Pride went outside), Gunter heard Bethie Pride (Mr. Pride's wife and the plaintiff herein) screaming as she discovered Mr. Pride's body. Another neighbor, Robert Connor, heard Pride's scream and went to the Pride residence. When he arrived, he saw flames on Mr. Pride's back and shoulder and noticed that the drain pipe against which Mr. Pride was lying was also burning. Although officers of the Oliver Springs Police department and EMS personnel arrived at the residence shortly after Pride reported her husband's condition, Mr. Pride had sustained severe burns over 95% of his body and could not be saved. The EMS report indicates that, shortly after the fire was

Page 569

extinguished, emergency personnel detected some type of chemical odor around the body.

After the fire was extinguished, Randy Scarborough, a criminal investigator, and William Cliett of the State Fire Marshal's Office investigated the scene of the accident. Scarborough was placed in charge of the investigation and pictures were taken of both Mr. Pride's body and the surrounding area. In an effort to determine the cause of the fire, Scarborough had a representative from the local gas company check the area behind the Prides' residence for the presence of gas or gas fumes. Following this investigation, Scarborough ruled out "foul play," an electrical accident, or natural gas as the cause of the fire. In the course of surveying the area surrounding Mr. Pride's body, Scarborough discovered various parts of a BIC cigarette lighter. Mr. Pride was a smoker who habitually used disposable lighters, generally keeping them with his cigarettes in his shirt pocket. Mr. Pride had purchased a new BIC disposable lighter on the morning of the fire. Based on their investigation of the area behind the Pride residence, neither Scarborough nor Cliett were able to attribute the fire to anything other than Mr. Pride's lighter. Both Scarborough and Cliett surmised that the lighter malfunctioned and caused the fire, which started on Mr. Pride's torso and spread by consuming his clothing.

In addition to examining Mr. Pride's body and the area immediately behind the house, Scarborough collected Mr. Pride's remaining clothes, took soil samples from the surrounding area, and gathered other evidence that he then submitted to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) in Nashville for analysis. Although the TBI's initial investigation indicated that there might have been some motor oil residue on Mr. Pride's leather clothing articles, the TBI's final conclusion was that there were no petroleum distillates (accelerants) in any of the samples taken from the area behind the Pride residence.

Procedural History

Based on the results of the fire investigation, Pride sued BIC on April 2, 1996, claiming that the BIC J-6 disposable lighter that her husband was carrying exploded and caused him to sustain fatal burns. Both defendants answered, denying liability and raising all applicable defenses under the Tennessee Product Liability Act. The district court then dismissed Societe BIC, S.A. for lack of personal jurisdiction, a determination that Pride does not appeal. A discovery schedule was set, and the parties proceeded to develop the case.

Although the district court set a discovery schedule and entered a protective order covering the evidence obtained from the scene of the accident, Pride's attorney, John Andrews, repeatedly violated scheduling order deadlines and failed to provide mandatory Rule 26 disclosures and reports. Specifically, neither Andrews nor his experts videotaped or otherwise documented their disassembly of the remains of the Pride lighter before turning the altered evidence over to the defense, did not timely disclose that they had the lighter remains examined by an independent consulting laboratory in Chicago, and did not timely provide the defense with a copy of the laboratory's report. Despite multiple warnings from the magistrate judge regarding Pride's obligations with respect to expert witness testimony, Andrews (whose discovery misconduct led to the exclusion of expert testimony in a previous suit against BIC2), continued to disregard Rule 26 deadlines and discovery requirements. In response to Andrews's discovery abuses, BIC filed six separate motions requesting dismissal of the case and imposition of fees and costs. The magistrate judge concluded that Andrews had violated the provisions of Rule 26(a)(2) and the protective order entered by the court, but declined to dismiss the case, holding instead

Page 570

that staying discovery and excluding Pride's late-disclosed expert-witness testimony were sufficient sanctions.

On March 2, 1998, BIC filed a motion to exclude as unreliable the testimony of Pride's three timely-disclosed expert witnesses, Leighton Sissom, Patrick McGinley, and Robert Davis, and moved for summary judgment. Pursuant to the parties' agreement to submit all pretrial motions to the magistrate judge for resolution, an evidentiary hearing was conducted on April 14 and 15, 1998, to determine the admissibility of Pride's expert witness testimony pursuant to Federal Rules of Evidence 104 and 702 and the Supreme Court's decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993). In evaluating the admissibility of the testimony, the magistrate judge and the district court considered evidence presented by both parties during the Daubert hearing.

Testimony at the Daubert Hearing

Pride's first expert, Dr. Leighton Sissom, examined the remains of the Pride lighter after he obtained from Investigator Scarborough the pieces of the lighter that were found at the scene. Sissom has a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and is the Dean Emeritus of Engineering at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tennessee. Based on both his engineering qualifications and his experience as an expert witness in product liability litigation, including previous suits against BIC,3 Pride proffered Sissom as an expert witness on the manufacturing and design defects of the BIC lighter, as well as on the cause and origin of the fire that killed Mr. Pride.

Although Sissom remains affiliated with Tennessee Tech, he established a consulting firm in 1978 called Sissom & Associates, Inc., and spends considerable time serving as an expert witness. As the magistrate judge noted in his report and recommendation, since 1978 Sissom has "testified in hundreds of product liability lawsuits involving everything from car seat belts to manure spreaders." With respect to Sissom's service as an expert witness in prior "failure to extinguish" cases against BIC, the report noted that on "some occasions . . . trial courts have admitted his testimony as that of a qualified expert . . . . [however,] [o]n at least one occasion, another trial court refused to permit him to testify regarding a manufacturing defect in a Bic lighter."

In his Rule 26(a)(2)(B) report to the district court, Sissom defined his...

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274 practice notes
  • Stringer v. Nat'l Football League, Case No. 2:03–cv–665.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • July 10, 2009
    ...his or her “gatekeeper” function and screen proffered expert testimony. See id. at 588, 113 S.Ct. 2786; see also Pride v. BIC Corp., 218 F.3d 566, 577 (6th Cir.2000). The Daubert Court, which addressed scientific expert testimony, set forth four factors relevant to the admissibility determi......
  • Butera v. Dist. of Columbia, No. 00-7008
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • January 9, 2001
    ...these circumstances, the district court would have broad discretion to exclude the substituted testimony. See Pride v. Bic Corporation, 218 F.3d 566, 578-79 (6th Cir. 2000). Page 662 district court could understandably have been reluctant to reward the District of Columbia for Detective Bro......
  • Ridenour v. Collins, Case No. 2:08-cv-682.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • February 10, 2010
    ...Judge decided the defendants' motion in Mr. Ridenour's favor, he has no grounds for seeking reconsideration. Pride v. BIC Corp., 218 F.3d 566, 576 (6th Cir.2000). Furthermore, Mr. Ridenour has not moved for summary judgment, and no such motion is the subject of the Report and Recommendation......
  • Gillett v. U.S., No. 5:01-CV-104.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • September 20, 2002
    ...See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Pride v. BIC Corp., 218 F.3d 566, 567 (6th When the party without the burden of proof (generally the defendant) seeks summary judgment, that party bears the initial burden of poi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
274 cases
  • Stringer v. Nat'l Football League, Case No. 2:03–cv–665.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • July 10, 2009
    ...his or her “gatekeeper” function and screen proffered expert testimony. See id. at 588, 113 S.Ct. 2786; see also Pride v. BIC Corp., 218 F.3d 566, 577 (6th Cir.2000). The Daubert Court, which addressed scientific expert testimony, set forth four factors relevant to the admissibility determi......
  • Butera v. Dist. of Columbia, No. 00-7008
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • January 9, 2001
    ...these circumstances, the district court would have broad discretion to exclude the substituted testimony. See Pride v. Bic Corporation, 218 F.3d 566, 578-79 (6th Cir. 2000). Page 662 district court could understandably have been reluctant to reward the District of Columbia for Detective Bro......
  • Ridenour v. Collins, Case No. 2:08-cv-682.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • February 10, 2010
    ...Judge decided the defendants' motion in Mr. Ridenour's favor, he has no grounds for seeking reconsideration. Pride v. BIC Corp., 218 F.3d 566, 576 (6th Cir.2000). Furthermore, Mr. Ridenour has not moved for summary judgment, and no such motion is the subject of the Report and Recommendation......
  • Gillett v. U.S., No. 5:01-CV-104.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • September 20, 2002
    ...See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Pride v. BIC Corp., 218 F.3d 566, 567 (6th When the party without the burden of proof (generally the defendant) seeks summary judgment, that party bears the initial burden of poi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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