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Figger v. Old West Livestock, L.L.C.

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

December 2, 2013

FOWLER FIGGER, Plaintiff,
v.
OLD WEST LIVESTOCK, L.L.C., Defendant,

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO EXCLUDE EXPERT TESTIMONY OF MATTHEW MEYERHOFF

Kenneth G. Gale United States Magistrate Judge

Now before the Court is Defendant’s “Motion to Exclude Expert Testimony of Matthew Meyerhoff.” (Doc. 63.) Having reviewed the submissions of the parties, this motion in limine is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part as outlined below.

BACKGROUND

This is a negligence case resulting from a motor vehicle accident involving a semi tractor-trailer and a passenger car that occurred during a rainstorm shortly after 11:00 p.m. on February 2, 2012. Plaintiff has identified Matthew Meyerhoff as an expert on issues relating to the operation of commercial motor vehicles and training of those who operate them. Meyerhoff has submitted an expert report containing seven enumerated “Opinions and Conclusions.” (See Doc. 64-5.) Defendant moves to exclude Meyerhoff’s testimony, arguing that “his opinions are not reliable, irrelevant, and otherwise improper.” (Doc. 64, at 3.)

DISCUSSION

The standards relating to the admission of expert testimony was recently discussed in the case of Underground Vaults & Storage v. Cintas Corp., No. 11-1067-MLB, 2013 WL 6150764 (D. Kan. Nov. 22, 2013). Therein, District Judge the Honorable Monti Belot gave the following analysis:

‘Rule 702 sets forth the standard for admission of expert testimony, ’ U.S. v. Fredette, 315 F.3d 1235, 1239 (10th Cir. 2003), and assigns ‘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 Pharm., 509 U.S. 579, 597, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 2799, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993). Rule 702 provides that
[i]f scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) 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.
Exclusion of expert testimony is the exception, not the rule. See Advisory Committee Notes concerning the amendment to Rule 702 (noting that ‘a review of the case law after Daubert shows that the rejection of expert testimony is the exception rather than the rule.’)
If the expert is sufficiently qualified . . . then ‘the court must determine whether the expert's opinion is reliable by assessing the underlying reasoning and methodology.’ United States v. Avitiz–Guillen, 680 F.3d 1253, 1256 (10th Cir. 2012).

Id., at 1-2.

Even so, it is well-established that relevance is not the only benchmark for admissibility of seemingly relevant expert testimony.

When expert testimony embodies legal conclusions, however, it exceeds the permissible scope of opinion testimony. See Frase v. Henry, 444 F.2d 1228, 1231 (10th Cir.1971) (expert cannot state legal conclusions by applying law to the facts, passing upon weight or credibility of the evidence, or usurping the province of the jury by telling it what result should be reached); FAA v. Landy, 705 F.2d 624, 632 (2d Cir.) (where former FAA official offered to testify about industry practice and FAA policy concerning application of FAA regulation, court excluded testimony on grounds that ‘meaning and applicability’ of a specific law invades the province of the court to instruct the jury as to the law), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 895, 104 S.Ct. 243, 78 L.Ed.2d 232 (1983); Marx & Co. Inc. v. Diners' Club, Inc., 550 F.2d 505, ...

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