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Ancar v. Brown

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

February 19, 2014

CLORETTE ANCAR and LEONARD JOSEPH ANCAR, JR., Plaintiffs,
v.
LEROY BROWN, JR. and TNE TRUCKING, INC., Defendants.

ORDER

DANIEL P. JORDON, III, District Judge.

This negligence action is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Limit the Testimony of Certain Experts [104]. The Court, having considered the memoranda and submissions of the parties, finds that Defendants' motion should be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Facts and Procedural History

This case arises from a February 14, 2011 traffic accident on Interstate Highway 20. Defendant Leroy Brown was driving a tractor-trailer eastbound and veered off the road after apparently falling asleep. Plaintiffs Clorette and Leonard Joseph Ancar were traveling westbound and purportedly reacted when they saw Brown. Though the two vehicles never collided, the Ancars swerved and struck the barrier in the median.

Plaintiffs allege that they both suffered injuries from the accident. Their amended complaint alleges negligence, gross negligence, and recklessness against Defendant Brown and vicariously against his employer Defendant TNE Trucking, Inc. In support of their claims, the Ancars designated economist Gerald Lee and life-care planner Nathaniel Fentress as experts. Defendants filed the instant motion to limit the testimony of both experts, arguing that their opinions are unreliable.

II. Standard

The district court fulfills a gatekeeper function to exclude irrelevant or unreliable expert testimony. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 & n.7 (1993). This function begins with Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which provides:

If 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) the 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.

Fed. R. Evid. 702. Under Rule 702, the court should "make certain that an expert, whether basing testimony upon professional studies or personal experiences, employs in the courtroom the same level of intellectual rigor that characterizes the practice of an expert in the relevant field." Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 152 (1999).

Whether a proposed expert should be permitted to testify under Rule 702 "is case, and fact, specific." Hodges v. Mack Trucks Inc., 474 F.3d 188, 194 (5th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). Thus, the district court retains "broad latitude' both in deciding how to determine whether an expert's testimony is reliable, and ultimately, whether the testimony is, in fact, reliable." Id. (quoting Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 142 (1999)). "The party offering the expert must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the proffered testimony satisfies the rule 702 test." Mathis v. Exxon Corp., 302 F.3d 448, 459-60 (5th Cir. 2002).

The gatekeeper function of the district court does not, however, replace trial on the merits. In performing this function, "the district court should approach its task with proper deference to the jury's role as the arbiter of disputes between conflicting opinions. As a general rule, questions relating to the bases and sources of an expert's opinion affect the weight to be assigned that opinion rather than its admissibility and should be left for the jury's consideration.'" United States v. 14.38 Acres of Land, More or Less Situated in Leflore Cnty., 80 F.3d 1074, 1077 (5th Cir. 1996) (quoting Viterbo v. Dow Chem. Co., 826 F.2d 420, 422 (5th Cir. 1987)).

III. Analysis

A. Nathaniel Fentress

Fentress is a vocational rehabilitation specialist who submitted a life-care plan for Clorette Ancar. In that plan, Fentress recommends lifelong medication and physical therapy, a home-exercise program, a weight-loss program, and annual epidural-steroid injections. Defendants argue that ...


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