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O'Bryant v. Gray Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

October 18, 2017

TIMOTHY G. O'BRYANT
v.
GRAY INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL

         SECTION “N” (1)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          KURT D. ENGELHARDT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion in Limine to Exclude/Limit Plaintiff's Liability Expert, Leslie Eschete (Rec. Doc. 98). This motion is opposed by Plaintiff (Rec. Doc. 112). Defendants, The Gray Insurance Company, Longnecker Properties, Inc., ENI U.S. Operating Company, Inc. and SEACOR Marine LLC, maintain that Mr. Eschete lacks the requisite expertise to offer the opinions set forth in his report, and further, that such opinions are unfounded and inadmissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert.[1] For the reasons stated herein, the motion is GRANTED.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Under Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence,

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: (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.

Thus, under Rule 702 and Daubert, a court "must ensure the expert uses reliable methods to reach his opinions[, ] and those opinions must be relevant to the facts of the case." Guy v. Crown Equip. Corp., 394 F.3d 320, 325 (5th Cir. 2004). Reliability and validity must be demonstrated by evidence that the knowledge is more than speculation. Daubert, 509 U.S. at 590. An evaluation or analysis of reliability must be flexible, as “[t]he factors identified in Daubert may or may not be pertinent in assessing reliability, depending on the nature of the issue, the expert's particular expertise, and the subject of his testimony.” Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 150, 119 S.Ct. 1167, 1175, 143 L.Ed.2d 238 (1999).

With respect to relevancy of expert testimony,
[T]he proposed testimony must be relevant “not simply in the way all testimony must be relevant [pursuant to Rule 402], but also in the sense that the expert's proposed opinion would assist the trier of fact to understand or determine a fact in issue.” Bocanegra v. Vicmar Servs. Inc., 320 F.3d 581, 584 (5th Cir.2003). There is no more certain test for determining when experts may be used than the common sense inquiry whether the untrained layman would be qualified to determine intelligently and to the best degree the particular issue without enlightenment from those having a specialized understanding of the subject involved in the dispute.” Vogler v. Blackmore, 352 F.3d 150, 156 n. 5 (5th Cir.2003) (quoting Fed.R.Evid. 702 advisory committee's note).

Kennedy v. Magnolia Marine Transp. Co., 189 F.Supp.3d 610, 615 (E.D. La. 2016). Thus, if a jury “could adeptly assess [a] situation using only their common experience and knowledge, ” it is within the discretion of the trial judge to exclude the expert testimony. Peters v. Five Star Marine Serv., 898 F.2d 448, 450 (5th Cir. 1990).

         Assuming without deciding that Mr. Eschete is, in fact, an expert in maritime industry areas, including maritime safety and the duties of a captain of a vessel similar to the one involved in this case, the Court turns to the specific opinions offered by Mr. Eschete regarding the November 14, 2015 incident on board the M/V CLAY ELLA, in which plaintiff Timothy G. O'Bryant claims to have injured himself as a result of slipping and falling in the shower on board the vessel. Mr. Eschete offers five opinions associated with this incident:

1. This incident was completely avoidable. Had the LPI dispatcher followed instructions and not ordered the M/V CLAY ELLA to sea; no injury(s) to Mr. O'Bryant would have occurred.
2. The captain/operator of the M/V CLAY ELLA should have informed, notified, alerted the riggers/personnel on the vessel of the course change during the prevailing sea conditions; Mr. O'Bryant would not have been injured.
3. Handrails and/or grab-bars should have been provided in the larger than normal shower stall of ...

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