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M.D. Claims Group, LLC v. Anchor Specialty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

June 12, 2019

M.D. CLAIMS GROUP, LLC ET AL.
v.
ANCHOR SPECIALTY INSURANCE COMPANY ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          JUDGE BRIAN A. JACKSON JUDGE

         Before the Court is the Motion in Limine to Exclude Plaintiffs' Expert (Doc. 36), filed by Defendants Anchor Specialty Insurance Company and Lozano Insurance Adjusters, Inc. Plaintiffs, M.D. Claims Group, L.L.C, Darryn Melerine, and Richard Broom, filed a Memorandum in Opposition (Doc. 39). For the reasons stated herein, the Motion in Limine (Doc. 36), is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Melerine and Broom are, respectively, the majority and minority owners of M.D. Claims Group, L.L.C. ("M.D. Claims"). (Id. at 3). Anchor Specialty Insurance Company ("Anchor") and Lozano Insurance Adjusters, Inc. ("Lozano") hired Melerine and Broom to run and provide claim management services to Anchor's Beaumont, Texas Claims Department. (Doc. 31 at p. 2).[1] Plaintiffs allege that the parties agreed that Plaintiffs would be compensated for their claim management services based upon a fee schedule. Initially, the nominal daily rates for Melerine and Broom were $650 and $550 respectively. (Id. at 2).

         Plaintiffs assert that while working for Anchor, the scope of their responsibilities evolved from the duties initially agreed upon by the parties. (Doc. 31 at p. 3). Anchor's Vice President of Claims, Rick Larson, allegedly asked Melerine if M.D. Claims could do additional work for Anchor. (Id.). This work allegedly included reorganizing the Texas Claims Department, reducing utilization of independent adjusting firms, relationship building with industry professionals, and recruiting staffing for Lozano and Anchor's offices in Texas and Florida. (Id.). Anchor ended its relationship with M.D. Claims in February 2017. (Doc. 20-1 at p. 2).

         Plaintiffs assert that Defendants failed to compensate them for the additional services they provided. (Doc. 31 at p. 3). Defendants respond that the alleged additional services fell within the initial scope of services Plaintiffs agreed to provide and thus, Plaintiffs were not owed additional compensation. Plaintiffs seek to recover $486, 062.37 allegedly owed to them. (Doc. 31 at p. 6). Plaintiffs bring suit against Defendants for breach of contract. (Doc. 1). Defendants, in the instant motion, seek to exclude the testimony of Quin Netzel, who Plaintiffs proffer as an expert in the services that independent adjusters provide to insurers. (Doc. 39 at p.4).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence governs the admissibility of expert testimony. The Rule states that a witness "qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education" is permitted to testify if:

(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based upon 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.

         Rule 702 is effectively a codification of the United States Supreme Court's opinion in Daubert, in which the Supreme Court held that trial courts should serve as gatekeepers for expert testimony and should not admit such testimony without first determining that it is both "reliable" and "relevant." Daubert v. Merrell Dowell Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993). Daubert was concerned with limiting speculative, unreliable, and irrelevant opinions from reaching a jury. Id. at 589 n.7.

         Although "[a]n opinion is not objectionable just because it embraces an ultimate issue," Fed.R.Evid. 704(a), an expert opinion may not offer conclusions of law. See Owen v. KerrMcGee Corp.,698 F.2d 236, 240 (5th Cir. 1983). "An expert who usurps either the role of the judge by instructing the jury on the applicable law or the role of the jury by applying the law to the facts at issue 'by definition does not aid the jury in making a decision."' Taylor v. Clarke Power Services, Inc., Civil Action No. 16-15890, 2017 WL 5068335, at *3 (E.D. La. Nov. ...


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