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Cooper v. Meritor, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

February 11, 2019

BRENDA J. COOPER, et al. PLAINTIFFS
v.
MERITOR, INC., et al. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          DEBRA M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court in these consolidated cases is the “Motion of Defendants Meritor Inc., The Boeing Company, and Rockwell Automation, Inc. to Exclude the Opinions and Testimony of Howard Herring.” Doc. #542.

         I Relevant Background

         These consolidated cases involve claims for property damage arising from decades of operation of a manufacturing facility (“Facility”) in Grenada, Mississippi, by Meritor, Inc., the Boeing Company, Rockwell Automation, Inc., and Textron, Inc. The plaintiffs, all property owners or former property owners of land in Grenada's Eastern Heights subdivision (“Subdivision”), assert that the defendants negligently operated the Facility and that the negligence resulted in the contamination of Eastern Heights. The plaintiffs' amended complaint, which asserts claims for fraud, civil conspiracy, negligence, nuisance, and infliction of emotional distress, seeks recovery for, among other things, relocation costs. Doc. #43 at ¶ 76.

         During discovery, the plaintiffs disclosed the expert report of Howard Herring, which estimates the relocation cost for forty-three homes in the Subdivision, including eight homes owned by the plaintiffs.[1] Doc. #542-1 at 3. On May 7, 2018, Meritor, Boeing, and Rockwell (“Meritor Defendants”) filed a motion to exclude Herring's opinions. Doc. #542. Textron joined the motion two days later. Doc. #577. The plaintiffs responded in opposition to the motion on May 18, 2018. Doc. #614. The Meritor Defendants replied on May 25, 2018. Doc. #689.

         II Standard Governing Admissibility of Expert Opinions

         Federal Rule of Evidence 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.

         A “district court has wide latitude when navigating the expert-qualification process.” Williams v. Manitowoc Cranes, L.L.C., 896 F.3d 607, 625 (5th Cir. 2018). “As long as there are sufficient indicia that an individual will provide a reliable opinion on a subject, a district court may qualify that individual as an expert.” Id. (quotation marks omitted).

         Under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), a district court has a “special obligation … to ensure that any and all scientific testimony is not only relevant, but reliable.” Bear Ranch, L.L.C. v. Heartbrand Beef, Inc., 885 F.3d 794, 802 (5th Cir. 2018) (internal alterations and quotation marks omitted). “To establish reliability under Daubert, an expert bears the burden of furnishing some objective, independent validation of his ...


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