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Trinidad v. Moore

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

February 6, 2017

JOSE A. TRINIDAD, Plaintiff,
v.
DANIEL JOE MOORE, JR., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          W. HAROLD ALBRITTON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This cause is before the court on Defendants' Renewed Motion to Preclude the Testimony of Plaintiff's Expert, Jon P. Dillard (“Dillard”). (Doc. # 201).

         The court has addressed whether Dillard may give expert testimony in a previous order. (Doc. # 132). In that order, the court found Dillard qualified under Daubert and Kumho Tire to give expert opinions on safety standards in the tractor trailer industry. (Doc. # 132). As a safety expert, Dillard may opine about the standard of care for the commercial trucking industry and whether Moore's conduct fell below it under various sets of hypothetical facts. Id. However, because Dillard is not an accident reconstructionist, he may not opine as to how the accident in this case happened or accept as true any one versions of it. Id. After reviewing Dillard's earlier opinions to which Defendants had objections, the court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' first Motion to Preclude Testimony of Plaintiff's Expert Jon P. Dillard. Id.

         Since the court's previous order, Dillard has submitted a supplemental report wherein he states new opinions concerning whether, and if so, how Defendant RDB should have retained Defendant Daniel J. Moore (“Moore”) in light of a positive drug test. In response to this report, Defendants bring this Motion. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' Renewed Motion to Preclude is due to be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The admissibility of expert testimony is governed by the Federal Rules of Evidence, Rule 702 (“Rule 702”), which, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, “assign[s] to the trial judge the task of ensuring that an expert's testimony both rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand.” Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 587 (1993). This “gatekeeping” function is important “to ensure that speculative, unreliable expert testimony does not reach the jury under the mantle of reliability that accompanies the appellation expert testimony.” Rink v. Cheminova, Inc., 400 F.3d 1286, 1291 (11th Cir. 2005) (quotation and citation omitted). Moreover, “[i]t is to make certain that an expert, whether basing testimony upon professional studies or personal experience, employs in the courtroom the same level of intellectual rigor that characterizes the practices of an expert in the relevant field.” Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 152 (1999).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendants argue that Dillard's proposed testimony is inadmissible for three reasons:

First, Dillard's opinions are not reliable because they are not based on sufficient facts or data. Second, Dillard's proposed opinions are not relevant because they do not aid the trier of fact in reaching its decision, and, in fact, invade the province of the jury. Third, Dillard's opinions constitute inadmissible legal conclusions.

(Doc. # 201, p. 4). Additionally, Defendants stated an objection to one of Dillard's opinions during the pretrial conference because it arguably relates to the mental state of the Defendants. The court will address each of these arguments, in turn.

         1. Reliability

         Dillard's opinions in his supplemental report, like his opinions in his earlier report, are sufficiently reliable because they are based upon his personal knowledge and experience. As the court explained in its previous order, for nonscientific testimony, “the trial judge must have considerable leeway in deciding in a particular case how to go about determining whether particular expert testimony is reliable.” Kumho Tire, 526 U.S. at 152. “A district court may decide that nonscientific expert testimony is reliable based ‘upon personal knowledge or experience.'” Am. Gen. Life Ins. Co. v. Schoenthal Family, LLC, 555 F.3d 1331, 1338 (11th Cir. 2009) (citing Kumho Tire, 526 U.S. at 151).

         Defendants dispute the reliability of two of Dillard's opinions: Opinion 2 and Opinion 3.[1]Defendants argue that these opinions are not reliable because they are based upon a misunderstanding of the evidence. Specifically, Defendants quarrel over Dillard's use of the terms “random” versus “follow-up” testing. However, despite the Defendants' concerns, the difference in the type of testing to which Dillard attributes significance is reliable if offered based on the industry's ...


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