NERA Expert Opinions in GM Class Action Suit Withstand Challenges by Daubert Motions

Dr. Samantha Iyengar, Richard Eichmann, Dr. Daniel Werner

General Motors (GM) was alleged to have concealed a known defect in automatic transmissions used for certain vehicles with model years between 2015 and 2019 in a class action. Counsel for GM retained Associate Director Dr. Samantha Iyengar and Managing Director Richard Eichmann, supported by a team of analysts led by Associate Director Dr. Daniel Werner, to measure damages owed to the plaintiffs.

Dr. Iyengar conducted a conjoint survey to measure the impact on consumer demand had the existence and extent of the alleged defect been fully disclosed. Using the results from Dr. Iyengar’s survey, Mr. Eichmann conducted a market simulation to measure the amount by which class members were overcharged and thereby prospectively owed in damages. Mr. Eichmann also analyzed the defendants’ warranty data and conducted a hedonic regression on third-party vehicle resale data to estimate further potential harm to consumers in the form of average cost to repair and diminished resale value.

The defendants filed a Daubert motion to exclude Dr. Iyengar and Mr. Eichmann’s reports as opinions. The motion challenged the validity of the assumptions and methodology used by Dr. Iyengar in constructing her survey and using the results to derive consumer demand. Mr. Eichmann’s report was challenged based on, among other things, the inputs selected for its analyses, its market simulation methodology, and its reliance on Dr. Iyengar’s findings.

Ultimately, the court denied the defendant’s motions to exclude the reports and opinions of Dr. Iyengar and Mr. Eichmann, noting many of the defendant’s criticisms pertained to disputed facts and not to the reliability of the experts’ methods. The court confirmed the validity of Dr. Iyengar’s and Mr. Eichmann’s methods, noting that Dr. Iyengar’s methodology was “well recognized in the field” and that Mr. Eichmann’s market simulation and hedonic methods have “regularly… been accepted as admissible evidence demonstrating class-wide damages in product defect cases.”