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Jackson v. Asplundh Construction Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

September 8, 2016

SUSAN E. JACKSON Plaintiff,
v.
ASPLUNDH CONSTRUCTION CORP. and ANTHONY MICHAEL ROGERS, Defendant(s).

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          E. RICHARD WEBBER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Asplundh Construction Corporation and Anthony Michael Rogers's Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Designation of William E. Hampton as an Expert [ECF No. 43]; Plaintiff Susan E. Jackson's Motion to Exclude Testimony of Defendants' Expert Francis Oldham [ECF No. 56]; and Plaintiff's Motion to Exclude Opinions 1-7 of Defendants' Expert Stephen Chewning. [ECF No. 58].

         I. BACKGROUND

         This action arises from a motor vehicle collision on December 3, 2007, between Defendant Anthony Rogers (“Rogers”), an employee of Defendant Asplundh Construction Corporation (“Asplundh”), and Plaintiff Susan E. Jackson when Rogers was operating a bucket truck on Highway 8 in Potosi, Missouri. [ECF No. 53 at ¶ 1]. Plaintiff initially brought her petition in state court on March 24, 2015, and Defendants removed to this Court on May 6, 2015. [ECF Nos. 1, 3].

         Defendants in their Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Designation of William Hampton as an Expert argue because Mr. Hampton's opinion testimony should be excluded because his opinions: do not contain specialized knowledge to help the trier of fact understand the evidence, are not based on sufficient facts, are not the product of reliable methods, do not reliably apply principles and methods to the facts of this case, and the probative value of his testimony is outweighed by its prejudicial effect. [ECF No. 43]. Plaintiff's Motion to Exclude Testimony of Defendants' Expert Francis Oldham argues the Court should exclude Mr. Oldham because Mr. Oldham does not discuss Defendant Rogers's vision issues, the information used to establish the opinions; specifically the testing in Long Island, New York was inaccurate, unreliable and not similar to aid a trier of fact. [ECF No. 56]. Plaintiff's Motion to Exclude Opinions 1-7 of Defendants' Expert Stephen Chewning argues because Mr. Chewning failed to ensure the testing methods in Long Island were sufficiently similar to the accident, were cumulative of Mr. Oldham's opinion, were wrong to rely on Mr. Oldham's opinions and because his opinion evidence is more prejudicial than probative the Court should exclude his testimony. [ECF No. 58].

         II.STANDARD

         Rule 702 mandates a policy of liberal admissibility, and expert testimony is permitted if it will assist the trier of fact in understanding the evidence or to determine a fact in issue. Fed.R.Evid. 702; Lauzon v. Senco Prods., Inc., 270 F.3d 681, 686 (8th Cir. 2001). To be admitted under Rule 702, proposed expert testimony must meet three prerequisites: 1) any evidence based on scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge must be useful to the fact finder in determining a fact in issue; 2) the proposed witness must be qualified to assist the fact finder; and 3) the proposed evidence must be reliable or trustworthy in an evidentiary sense. Id.; Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 590-93 (1993).[1]

         A district court's goal in assessing expert testimony is to ensure that “all scientific testimony is both reliable and relevant.” Barrett v. Rhodia, Inc., 606 F.3d 975, 980 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Marmo v. Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc., 457 F.3d 748, 757 (8th Cir. 2006)). The reliability requirement means “the party offering the expert testimony must show by a preponderance of the evidence both that the expert is qualified to render the opinion and that the methodology underlying his conclusions is scientifically valid, ” while the relevance requirement demands “the proponent must show that the expert's reasoning or methodology was applied properly to the facts at issue.” Id. (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         Rule 702's requirements notwithstanding, “[c]ourts should resolve doubts regarding the usefulness of an expert's testimony in favor of admissibility.” Marmo, 457 F.3d at 758. This is because the Rule “only requires that an expert possess ‘knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education' sufficient to ‘assist' the trier of fact, which is ‘satisfied where expert testimony advances the trier of fact's understanding to any degree.'” Robinson v. GEICO Gen. Ins. Co., 447 F.3d 1096, 1100 (8th Cir. 2006) (internal citation omitted). As such, “[g]aps in an expert witness's qualifications or knowledge generally go to the weight of the witness's testimony, not its admissibility.” Id. at 1100-01.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Court considers three different motions to exclude part or all of experts' testimony. The Court will first address Defendants' motion to strike, followed by Plaintiff's Motion to exclude Mr. Oldham, and finally, Plaintiff's motion to exclude portions of Mr. Chewning's opinions.

         A. Defendants Asplundh Construction Corporation and Anthony Michael Rogers's Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Designation of William E. Hampton as an Expert

         Defendants in their memorandum in support of their motion to strike argue: Mr. Hampton's opinions fail to conform to the requirements of Rule 702, and should be excluded because he: lacks the requisite experience to reach his conclusions, applies inconsistent assumptions, reaches legal conclusions, and opines on areas outside of his expertise, where he does not have first-hand knowledge. Further, Defendants argue Mr. Hampton's opinions will not aid the jury on the legal issues they must decide and are more prejudicial than probative. [ECF No. 44]. Plaintiff responds Mr. Hampton's conclusions are based on his considerable knowledge as an expert in the field, are reliable and are central to the issues in dispute. [ECF No. 51].

         Defendants argue each of Mr. Hampton's final conclusions[2] contained in his expert report are deficient, and makes substantially similar arguments for most of the conclusions in doing so. Defendants generally make five arguments Mr. Hampton's conclusions are inadmissible: (1) Mr. Hampton reveals no particular principles or methodology used to formulate his conclusions; (2) he lacks the requisite experience and expertise to reach his conclusions; (3) he applies inconsistent assumptions to reach ...


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