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Hudson Specialty Insurance Co. v. Talex Enterprises, LLC

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

September 4, 2019

HUDSON SPECIALTY INSURANCE COMPANY PLAINTIFF/ COUNTER-DEFENDANT
v.
TALEX ENTERPRISES, LLC; JUBILEE PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, INC.; TERRANCE L. ALEXANDER; and the BOARD OF MAYOR AND SELECTMEN OF MCCOMB, MISSISSIPPI, et al. DEFENDANTS/COUNTER-CLAIMANTS

          ORDER

          David Bramlette United States District Court Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant Hudson Specialty Insurance Company (“Hudson”)'s Motion to Strike Expert Causation Opinions (Doc. 204), and Defendants/Counter-Claimants Talex Enterprises, LLC (“Talex”); Terrance L. Alexander (“Alexander”); Jubilee Performing Arts Center, Inc. (“Jubilee”); and, the Board of Mayor and Selectmen of McComb, Mississippi (“McComb”)'s Response in Opposition to Motion to Strike Expert Causation Opinions (Doc. 216). The Court having examined the motions, memoranda in support, and the applicable statutory and case law, and being fully advised in the premises, finds that the Motion to Strike Expert Causation Opinions should be DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         This is a case arising out of an insurance dispute between Hudson Specialty Insurance Company and Talex Enterprises, LLC, Jubilee Performing Arts Center, Terrance L. Alexander and the City of McComb. The dispute arises out of an incident involving a property insured by Hudson, the JPAC Building, located at 230-232 Main Street, McComb, Mississippi. The JPAC Building is listed under two policies of insurance issued by Hudson. Talex owns the JPAC Building and, at the time of the incident, Jubilee operated a performing arts school out of the building. Alexander is the principal for both Talex and Jubilee.

         Talex is the named insured under one policy, No. HBD10027329, (the “Talex Policy”), which provides building property coverage and commercial general liability coverage. Alexander d/b/a Jubilee is the named insured under the other policy, No. HBD10019191, (the “Alexander Policy”), which provides personal property coverage and commercial general liability coverage.

         The JPAC Building collapsed on July 23, 2017. After the collapse, the remaining portions of the JPAC Building required immediate stabilization to render them safe. McComb declared an emergency condition and hired Mr. Laird, an engineer with Laird & Smithers, Inc., to “prevent further injury and property destruction.” McComb designated Mr. Laird as a non-retained expert for this trial. Mr. Laird's report claimed that the collapse was caused by the fact that the JPAC Building “had been reroofed many times without removal of the degraded underlying roofing materials; thus adding additional weight to the roof structure.” (Doc 204-6, Laird Report p. 2).

         McComb also designated Steve Cox as a non-retained expert. Mr. Cox is a local architect who owned property neighboring the JPAC Building. In the initial disclosure, Mr. Cox opined that the building collapsed because of the condition of very old mortar and not because of water standing on the building roof or because of roof repair.

         ANALYSIS

         Hudson puts forth two reasons to strike the opinions of Defendants/Counter-Claimants' experts: (1) the opinions challenge or are inconsistent with the ‘admitted' facts regarding the partial collapse of the JPAC building, and (2) Defendants/Counter-Claimants acted in bad faith in designating its experts. The Court will address each in turn.

         I. Admitted Facts

         At issue is the Contract of Assignment of Chose in Action (Doc. 67-1) (“The Contract” or “The Assignment”). In The Assignment Defendants/Counter-Claimants agreed and contracted that attorney Wayne Dowdy would undertake joint representation of Alexander; Jubilee; Talex; and McComb in the pending Federal Court Action filed by Hudson. The Assignment also stated that the claims of McComb would be made solely under the commercial general liability coverage of the insurance policies issued by Hudson. In this contract, the parties agreed that a large amount of rainwater had collected on the JPAC roof and the weight of the rainfall was the proximate cause of the collapse. See (Doc. 67-1 Ex. A). Hudson claims that the statement in The Assignment qualifies as a judicial admission, removing the question of causation from contention.

         A judicial admission is binding upon the party making it. To qualify as a judicial admission a statement must be (1) made in a judicial proceeding; (2) contrary to a fact essential to the theory of recovery; (3) deliberate, clear, and unequivocal; (4) such that giving it conclusive effect meets with public policy; and (5) about a fact on which a judgment for the opposing party can be based. See Heritage Bank v. Redcom Labs., Inc., 250 F.3d 319, 329 (5th Cir. 2001). The effect of a judicial admission is to withdraw a fact from contention. See Martinez v. Bally's Louisiana, Inc., 244 F.3d 474, 476 (5th Cir. 2001).

         Examples of judicial admissions are “admissions in the pleadings in the case, in motions for summary judgment, admissions in open court, stipulations of fact, and admissions pursuant to requests to admit.” See 6 Handbook of Fed. Evid. §801:26 (8th ed.). A judicial admission is a “formal concession in the pleadings or stipulations by a party or counsel that is binding on the party making them.” See Martinez, 244 F.3d at 476-477. A judicial admission should not be confused with an evidentiary admission, which may be “controverted or explained by the party.” See id.

         The first requirement of a judicial admission is that it be made in a judicial proceeding. The Defendants/Counter-Claimants' statement in The Assignment does not form any part of the pleadings in this proceeding. The contract at issue was not made in a pleading, stipulation, deposition, testimony, response to request for admissions, or in counsel's statements to the court. As such, the terms of the ...


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