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Dennis v. Collins

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

March 15, 2017

YOLANDA DENNIS
v.
ERNEST COLLINS, II, ET AL.

          HORNSBY, MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          S. MAURICE HICKS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendants Ernest Collins, II (“Collins”), Greyhound Lines, Inc. (“Greyhound”), and National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, PA's (“National Union”) (collectively “Defendants”) Daubert Motion regarding Plaintiff Yolanda Dennis' (“Dennis”) retained expert witness, John C. Laughlin (“Laughlin”). See Record Document 45. Defendants filed the instant Daubert Motion on the grounds that Laughlin's opinions are inadmissible because (1) they are not based on sufficient facts or data and (2) they are not based on a reliable application of the principles and methods of accident reconstruction to the facts of the case. See Record Document 45-1 at 4. For the reasons which follow, Defendants' Motion is DENIED.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Greyhound is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Texas that is engaged in the business of transporting passengers by bus throughout the United States. See Record Document 1-2 at ¶¶ 1-9. Collins is a citizen of Texas who works as a bus driver for Greyhound. See Record Document 37-3 at 5-17 (excerpts from Collins deposition). National Union is Greyhound's insurer. See Record Document 1-2 at ¶ 4.

         On June 15, 2014, Collins was driving a Greyhound bus from Shreveport to Dallas, Texas. See Record Document 37-3 at 8. While traveling south on Market Street in Shreveport just before entering the on-ramp to take Interstate 20 (“I-20”) westbound, Collins collided with a GMC SUV in which Dennis was a passenger. See Record Document 1-2 at ¶ 5. Frederick Alford (“Alford”) was driving the GMC SUV at the time of the collision. See Record Document 45-3 (excerpts from Alford deposition). Collins contends that as he was traveling south in the far right lane of Market Street at three to five miles per hour, a white Chevy truck cut him off as the bus was about to reach the I-20 entrance ramp, forcing him to hit the brakes and slightly veer to the right in his own lane. See Record Document 45-2 (excerpts from Collins deposition). He contends that at the same time, the GMC SUV was attempting to pass the bus on the right shoulder of the road, and that the back right corner of the bus collided with the GMC SUV when he was forced to veer right within his own lane.[1] See id. Dennis suffered injuries as a result of the collision. See Record Document 1-2 at ¶ 10-11.

         Dennis filed the instant action in the First Judicial District Court of Caddo Parish, Louisiana, on June 15, 2015, alleging that (1) Collins' negligent driving and (2) Greyhound's negligent supervision, teaching, and training of Collins caused the collision and Dennis' injuries. See id. at 2, 6. After receiving a discovery response indicating that the amount in controversy was greater than $75, 000, Defendants removed the case to this Court on September 23, 2015. See Record Document 1. Defendants filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on July 1, 2016, arguing that Dennis' negligent supervision, teaching, and training claims against Greyhound are subsumed within her negligence claims against Collins under Louisiana law. See Record Document 37. The Court granted the Motion on November 9, 2016. See Dennis v. Collins, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 155724 (W.D. La. 2016). On August 1, 2016, Defendants filed the instant Daubert Motion to Exclude Laughlin's opinions. See Record Document 45. Collins filed a Memorandum in Opposition on August 15, 2016. See Record Document 46.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         I. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Admissibility of Expert Testimony

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 governs the admissibility of expert testimony. Rule 702 states that “a witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise” if all of the following elements are met:

a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

         This list of elements comes from Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 570 (1993), and its progeny. In Daubert, the Supreme Court stated that courts are required to serve as gatekeepers for expert testimony, ensuring that such testimony is both reliable and relevant before it is admitted into evidence. See 509 U.S. at 589. Thus, requiring the proponent of a particular expert to satisfy the four elements stated in Rule 702 is aimed at ensuring that any purported expert testimony is both reliable and relevant. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 702, Notes of Advisory Committee on 2000 Amendments.

         Certain factors should be considered in determining whether a particular expert's opinions are reliable:

(1) whether the expert's technique or theory can be or has been tested- that is, whether the expert's theory can be challenged in some objective sense, or whether it is instead simply a subjective, conclusory approach that cannot reasonably be assessed for reliability; (2) whether the technique or theory has been subject to peer review and publication; (3) the known or potential rate of error of the technique or theory when applied; (4) the existence and maintenance of ...

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