United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
CALLIE V. S. GRANADE, District Judge.
This matter is before the court on the motions of Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs to exclude the testimony of Plaintiff's experts (Docs. 34 & 35), Plaintiff's response in opposition (Doc. 56), and the relevant assertions contained in the parties' filings with regard to the pending motions for summary judgment (Docs. 38, 44, 52, 54, 56, 57, 60). For the reasons explained below, the court finds that Defendants' motions to exclude should be granted.
This case involves an insurance claim for damage to Defendants' yacht, the "Mr. Charlie, " and its contents by a fire that occurred on March 3, 2013. Plaintiff seeks a declaration that it does not owe coverage for the fire and Defendants have asserted counterclaims for breach of contract and bad faith. (Docs. 1, 6). Specifically, Plaintiff contends that coverage is excluded by the policy at issue because the loss results from "marine life" and/or Defendants' "failure to maintain the covered yacht in good condition and repair." Plaintiff's experts, Guy Plaisance and Gary Jones, have concluded that the fire originated in the engine compartment in the vicinity of the aft end of the starboard engine and resulted from the seawater intake screen for the starboard strainer being restricted by marine growth. (Docs. 34-2, 35-6).
II. Motions to Exclude Experts
Defendants move to exclude the testimony of Plaintiff's experts, Guy Plaisance and Gary Jones, under Rules 403 and 702. Rule 403 excludes relevant evidence "if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of... unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence." FED. R. EVID. 403. Rule 702 provides for the admission of expert testimony when "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." FED. R. EVID. 702(a). The United States Supreme Court in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc. , 509 U.S. 579 (1993) found that scientific expert testimony is admissible only if the proffered testimony is both relevant and reliable. "[A] district court judge is to act as a gatekeeper' for expert testimony, only admitting such testimony after receiving satisfactory evidence of its reliability." Dhillon v. Crown Controls Corporation , 269 F.3d 865, 869 (7th Cir. 2001); see also U.S. v. Majors , 196 F.3d 1206, 1215 (11th Cir. 1999). However, "it is not the role of the district court to make ultimate conclusions as to the persuasiveness of the proffered evidence." Quiet Technology DC-8, Inc. v. Hurel-Dubois UK Ltd. , 326 F.3d 1333, 1341 (11th Cir. 2003). "[A] district court's gatekeeper role under Daubert is not intended to supplant the adversary system or the role of the jury." Id . (citing Maiz v. Virani , 253 F.3d 641, 666 (11th Cir. 2001)). "Quite the contrary, [v]igorous 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.'" Id . (quoting Daubert , 509 U.S. at 596, 113 S.Ct. at 2798).
Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence 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 rule compels district courts to "conduct an exacting analysis of the foundations of the expert opinions to ensure they meet the standards for admissibility under Rule 702." United States v. Abreu , 406 F.3d 1304, 1306 (11th Cir.2005) (quoting United States v. Frazier , 387 F.3d 1244, 1260 (11th Cir.2004) (internal quotation marks omitted)). Accordingly, under Rule 702, "this Court has an obligation to screen expert testimony to ensure it stems from a reliable methodology, sufficient factual basis, and reliable application of the methodology to the facts." Whatley v. Merit Distribution Services , 166 F.Supp.2d 1350, 1353 (S.D. Ala. 2001) (citations omitted). The Eleventh Circuit requires district courts to engage in a "rigorous three-part inquiry" for assessing the admissibility of expert testimony under Rule 702:
Trial courts must consider whether: "(1) [T]he expert is qualified to testify competently regarding the matters he intends to address; (2) the methodology by which the expert reaches his conclusions is sufficiently reliable as determined by the sort of inquiry mandated in Daubert; and (3) the testimony assists the trier of fact, through the application of scientific, ...