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Computer Experts

Admissibility Rate: .667    (2/3)

Dura Auto. Sys. of Ind., Inc. v. CTS Corp., 285 F.3d 609 (7th Cir. 2002) (see the briefs).  Water supply for Elkhart, Indiana, is contaminated by TCE and other volatile organic compounds.  After cleanup, EPA sues Dura for cleanup costs.  Dura sues CTS for contribution, alleging that CTS is partially responsible for contamination.  This could be so only if CTS's plastics plant was within city well field's "capture zone" (i.e., catchment basin) during operations twenty years ago.  Dura's sole expert is hydrogeologist Nicholas Valkenburg.  Valkenburg testifies in reliance on computer modeling performed by other personnel at his firm, and admits he is not himself expert in such modeling.  CTS moves to exclude Valkenburg's testimony and for summary judgment.  Dura responds with four affidavits from persons who performed computer modeling for Valkenburg, all of whom testify that such techniques are reliable.  CTS moves to strike affidavits as untimely expert designations.  Judge grants motion to strike, then holds Valkenburg's testimony inadmissible for want of evidence of reliability, then grants summary judgment.  Exclusion affirmed.  Dura says that even if affiants' own testimony could not be offered at trial, affidavits should have been considered to evaluate reliability of Valkenburg's testimony.  However, ultimate issue was validity of computer models, and Valkenburg's testimony on that point would have been exercise in ventriloquism.

United States v. Crotteau, 218 F.3d 826 (7th Cir. 2000).  In bank robbery trial, district court excludes putative expert's opinion re height of bank robber seen on surveillance video.  Exclusion affirmed.   Defendant's putative expert was high-school dropout, had no formal training on computer software he used, did not consider himself expert, relied on poor quality copies of videotapes, and failed to take appropriate measurements (e.g., of teller) at bank.

Networld, L.L.C. v. Centraal Corp., 242 F.3d 1347 (Fed. Cir. 2001).  In awarding summary judgment in patent infringement case, district court relies on defendant's expert's technical explanations and reaches conclusions consistent with expert's own conclusions in construing claim.  Reliance affirmed.  Plaintiff did not challenge factual correctness of expert's technical explanations of computer systems at issue, but merely differed with expert on legal issues of claim construction and infringement.  As to technical explanations, district court cannot be faulted for relying on only expert evidence presented.  Expert evidence on technical aspects of patented inventions may assist district courts in dealing with complex technologies outside court's expertise (citing Daubert).  As to claim construction, district court's construction was independently supported by patent specification and prosecution history.

Am. Imaging Servs., Inc. v. Intergraph Corp., No. 99-1485 (Fed. Cir. June 12, 2000) (unpublished), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 1071 (2001).  Plaintiff in patent infringement action disputes qualifications of defense computer expert, William Snider, to opine on interrupt vector tables.  Admissibility affirmed.  Expert was certified software programmer with many years of experience.

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