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Cox Operating LLC v. Settoon Towing LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 26, 2018

COX OPERATION, L.L.C.
v.
SETTOON TOWING, L.L.C., ET AL.

         SECTION I

          ORDER & REASONS

          LANCE M. AFRICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a motion[1] in limine filed by defendant Settoon Towing, L.L.C., in personam, and the Tug M/V Megan B. Settoon and her tow, their engines, etc., in rem, (collectively, “Settoon”) to exclude testimony from plaintiff Cox Operating, L.L.C.'s (“Cox”) expert Arthur Zatarain (“Zatarain”) under Rule 702. For the following reasons, the motion is denied.

         I.

         Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence governs the admissibility of expert witness testimony. See Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 588 (1993). Rule 702 provides:

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.

Fed. R. Evid. 702. The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Daubert “provides the analytical framework for determining whether expert testimony is admissible under Rule 702.” Pipitone v. Biomatrix, Inc., 288 F.3d 239, 243 (5th Cir. 2002). Both scientific and nonscientific expert testimony is subject to the Daubert framework, which requires trial courts to make a preliminary assessment to “determine whether the expert testimony is both reliable and relevant.” Burleson v. Tex. Dep't of Criminal Justice, 393 F.3d 577, 584 (5th Cir. 2004).

         “To qualify as an expert, ‘the witness must have such knowledge or experience in [his] field or calling as to make it appear that his opinion or inference will probably aid the trier in his search for truth.'” United States v. Hicks, 389 F.3d 514, 524 (5th Cir. 2004) (quoting United States v. Bourgeois, 950 F.2d 980, 987 (5th Cir. 1992)). Additionally, Rule 702 states that an expert may be qualified based on “knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education.” Id. “A district court should refuse to allow an expert witness to testify if it finds that the witness is not qualified to testify in a particular field or on a given subject.” Huss v. Gayden, 571 F.3d 442, 452 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting Wilson v. Woods, 163 F.3d 935, 937 (5th Cir. 1999)).

         However, “Rule 702 does not mandate that an expert be highly qualified in order to testify about a given issue. Differences in expertise bear chiefly on the weight to be assigned to the testimony by the trier of fact, not its admissibility.” Id.; see alsoDaubert, 509 U.S. at 596. An expert's lack of specialization similarly goes to the weight of evidence offered by that expert. Vedros v. Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Inc., 119 F.Supp.3d. 556, 562 (5th Cir. 2015). The Court applies a preponderance of the evidence standard when performing this gatekeeping function. ...


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