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Franco v. Mabe Trucking Co.

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

March 8, 2019





         Pending here is Plaintiff David Franco's (“Franco”) Motion in Limine to Prohibit Testimony and Opinions of Defendants' DOT Compliance Expert, Lane VanIngen [Doc. No. 134]. Defendants have filed an opposition [Doc. No. 145].

         This case arises out of a motor vehicle accident. On or about November 24, 2015, Franco's vehicle was involved in a collision with an 18-wheel truck owned by Defendant Mabe Trucking Co., Inc., (“Mabe”) and being driven by Defendant Richard Agee (“Agee”) on Interstate 20 in Louisiana shortly after crossing the border between Texas and Louisiana. On November 22, 2016, Franco filed suit against Mabe in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division, alleging diversity of citizenship jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). On July 6, 2017, the suit was transferred to this Court. On May 3, 2018, Franco filed a Supplemental and Amended Complaint adding Agee and National Interstate Insurance Company as defendants.

         Franco alleges that the accident was caused by the negligent operation of the Mabe truck by Agee in pulling onto Interstate 20 directly in front of him. Defendants contend the accident was caused solely by the negligence of Franco in not paying attention and rear-ending the Mabe truck. Thus, one of the issues to be presented to the jury is fault.

         Franco's Motion in Limine requests exclusion of the opinion testimony of Defendants' expert, Lane VanIngen, on the basis that his opinions are either wholly irrelevant or fall outside the scope of “DOT Compliance, ” his stated field of expertise.

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 establishes the standards for admissibility of expert testimony to assist a trier of fact in understanding evidence or determining a fact in issue. In determining whether expert testimony is reliable and relevant, the district court's role in applying Rule 702 is that of a gatekeeper. See Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 597-598, (1993). However, as gatekeeper, the district court is not intended to replace the adversary system: “Vigorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence, and careful instruction on the burden of proof are the traditional and appropriate means of attacking shaky but admissible evidence.” United States v. 14.38 Acres of Land, More or Less Situated in Lefore County, Miss., 1074');">80 F.3d 1074, 1078 (5th Cir. 1996) (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 596).

         In determining whether to allow expert opinion testimony, the court must first decide whether the witness is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education. See Moore v. Ashland Chemical, Inc., 126 F.3d 679, 684 (5th Cir. 1997). 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 particular subject. Wilson v. Woods, 163 F.3d 935');">163 F.3d 935 (5th Cir. 1999).

         If a witness is qualified to testify, the court must then determine whether the proffered testimony is both relevant and reliable. “The expert testimony must be relevant, not simply in the sense that all testimony must be relevant, Federal Rule of Evidence 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 Services, Inc., 1');">320 F.3d 581, 584 (5th Cir. 2003) (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 591-92).

         As to reliability, Rule 702 only authorizes the admission of expert testimony when “(1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.” Fed.R.Evid. 702. Expert testimony requires more than “subjective belief or unsupported speculation.” Daubert, 509 U.S. at 590.

         Defendants have retained Lane VanIngen to provide expert opinions in “DOT Compliance.” Franco objects to six (6) conclusions contained in Mr. VanIngen's report of November 27, 2018:

1. Mabe Trucking Co. Inc., C&C Asset Management LLC, and FedEx Ground Package System Inc. are USDOT regulated motor carriers, and each commercial motor vehicle driver, was subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (hereinafter referred to as the FMCSRs) on November 24, 2015, the date of the crash that is the basis for this case.
2. Mabe Trucking Co Inc.'s motor carrier operation is managed in a reasonably compliant manner with all applicable sections of the FMCSR's.
3. Richard A. Agee was qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle and the selection of Richard A. Agee as a commercial motor vehicle driver by Mabe Trucking Co. Inc., was reasonable and completed ...

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