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Natures Way Marine, LLC v. Everclear of Ohio, Ltd.

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

November 10, 2014

NATURES WAY MARINE, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
EVERCLEAR OF OHIO, LTD., and NIRK MAGNATE HOLDING CORP., Defendants.

ORDER

CALLIE V. S. GRANADE, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion to exclude the testimony of Plaintiff's expert (Docs. 135, 136), Plaintiff's response in opposition (Doc. 142), and Defendants' reply (Doc. 146); and Plaintiff's motion to exclude the testimony of Defendants' expert (Docs. 142, 173, 174), and Defendants' response in opposition (Docs. 172). For the reasons explained below, the Court finds that Defendants' motion to exclude should be GRANTED and Plaintiff's motion to exclude should be GRANTED. Defendants' motion to strike Plaintiff's motion to exclude (Doc. 177) because it is redundant is DENIED as moot.

I. Background

This case involves breach of contract claims arising out of a charter agreement. Natures Way Marine, LLC ("Plaintiff") entered into a charter agreement with Everclear of Ohio, Ltd. ("Everclear") and Nirk Magnate Holding Corp. ("Nirk Magnate") (collectively, "Defendants") to provide barges and towing vessels sufficient to transport spent fuel oils ("lubes") from East Liverpool, Ohio to Avondale, Louisiana. (Doc. 1, Exh. 1). After the transaction soured, Plaintiff asserted a breach of contract claim against Defendants. (Doc. 1, p. 4). In response, Defendants raised counterclaims contending Plaintiff breached the contract. (Doc. 23, p. 9; Doc. 53, p. 8). Both parties now ask the Court to exclude the testimony of the opposing expert witness. (Docs. 135, 173).

II. Motions to Exclude Experts

Defendants move to exclude the testimony of Plaintiff's expert, A. Clay Rankin, III, under Federal Rules of Evidence, Rule 702. (Doc. 136, p. 7). Plaintiff similarly moves to exclude the testimony of Defendants' expert, William Moore. (Doc. 174, pp. 5, 8, 10-11). 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 rule compels district courts to analyze "the foundations of 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 Distrib. Servs, 166 F.Supp.2d 1350, 1353 (S.D. Ala. 2001) (citations omitted).

A district court judge must "act as a gatekeeper' for expert testimony, only admitting such testimony after receiving satisfactory evidence of its reliability." Dhillon v. Crown Controls Corp., 269 F.3d 865, 869 (7th Cir. 2001) (citing Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993)). 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).

A district court must engage in a "rigorous three-part inquiry" to determine the admissibility of expert testimony under Rule 702. ...


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