United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division
DUSTIN RIGGIO, individually, and in his representative capacity as Administrator of the Estate of Kim Mills, deceased, and on behalf of all wrongful death beneficiaries of Kim Mills, deceased PLAINTIFF
ISREAL PRUNEDA; SMC TRANSPORT LLC; WERNER ENTERPRISES, INC.; and JOHN DOES 1-5 DEFENDANTS
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO EXCLUDE AND/OR LIMIT THE TESTIMONY
OF PLAINTIFFS' EXPERTS DR. JERRY HOUSEHOLDER, ROBERT
KELLY, AND FRED HANSCOM
GUIROLA, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
THE COURT is Defendants'  Motion to Exclude and/or
Limit the Testimony of Plaintiffs' Experts Dr. Jerry
Householder,  Robert Kelly, and Fred Hanscom. Defendants
seek to exclude testimony from these experts concerning
various aspects of this vehicle accident wrongful death case.
The issues have been fully briefed. After due consideration, the
Court finds that the expert testimony meets Daubert
requirements and should be allowed, except for one opinion
expressed by Fred Hanscom. The Defendants' Motion is
granted as to the one opinion of Fred Hanscom and denied in
all other respects.
case concerns a vehicle accident in which the driver who
rear-ended a tractor-trailer died from her injuries. The
wrongful death plaintiffs engaged the following experts: 1)
Dr. Jerry Householder, a civil engineer with an emphasis in
construction engineering; 2) Robert Kelly, a transportation
safety expert; and 3) Fred Hanscom, a human factors expert.
Defendants object to the introduction of opinion testimony
from these experts pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 702.
Rule of Evidence 702 provides for the admission of expert
testimony that assists the trier of fact to understand the
evidence or to determine a fact in issue. A court is charged
with a “gatekeeping function” to ensure expert
testimony is both reliable and relevant. Daubert v.
Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 597 (1993).
Reliability is analyzed under Rule 702, which requires that:
(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.
“Expert testimony which does not relate to any issue in
the case is not relevant and, ergo, non-helpful.”
Daubert, 509 U.S. at 591.
is a police officer in Kemah, Texas who is a federally
certified commercial vehicle enforcement officer. He has
provided “opinions and conclusions on the applicable
F[ederal] M[otor] C[arrier] S[afety] R[egulations] and safety
rules for SMC, Werner and Israel Pruneda Jr.” (Pl. Mot.
Ex. B at 3, ECF No. 167-2.) He concludes that SMC violated
the FMCSR and its own policies in hiring Pruneda
(id. at 18), and did not comply with certain
employment practices set out in the FMCSR. (Id. at
19-23.) Kelly also concludes that Pruneda violated
Mississippi statute by failing to either keep his speed above
40 miles per hour or stop at the weigh station, (id.
at 23-24), and violated the FMCSR by failing to inspect the
rear impact guard. (Id. at 28-29.) Defendants argue
that Kelly is not qualified to give this expert opinion
testimony under Rule 702, and his opinions are not reliable.
Kelly is qualified to testify as an expert is a question of
law. Mathis v. Exxon Corp., 302 F.3d 448, 459 (5th
Cir. 2002) (citing Fed.R.Evid. 104(a)). An expert may not
“go beyond the scope of his expertise in giving his
opinion.” Goodman v. Harris Cty., 571 F.3d
388, 399 (5th Cir. 2009). However, “Rule 702 does not
mandate that an expert be highly qualified in order to
testify about a given issue. Differences in expertise bear
chiefly on the weight to be assigned to the testimony by the
trier of fact, not its admissibility.” Huss v.
Gayden, 571 F.3d 442, 452 (5th Cir. 2009).
objections to Kelly's qualifications are that 1) there is
nothing in his background to suggest he is qualified to opine
on FMCSR compliance issues; and 2) Kelly's deposition
testimony demonstrates that he does not actually understand
how the regulations are applied. Plaintiffs argue in response
that “Kelly has received an education on multiple areas
of trucking and transportation safety, ” citing several
specific commercial driving courses. (Pls. Resp. Mem. to
Werner Mot. to Exclude 14, ECF No. 202.) In the Court's
view, this training adequately qualifies Kelly to testify
about the FMCSR compliances issues presented by this case.
Defendants' complaint that Kelly does not understand how
the regulations are applied goes to whether Kelly's
opinions are reliable rather than his qualifications.
addition to arguing that Kelly does not understand the FMCSR,
Defendants contend that Kelly's supplemental report
contradicts his original report in part. Specifically, after
reviewing the maintenance records for the tractor-trailer,
Kelly retracted his previous opinions that it had been
insufficiently maintained and that the alleged negligent
maintenance caused the bolts to fall out of the rear impact
guard. Defendants fault Kelly for failing to review the
maintenance records prior to writing his original report, and
argue that this demonstrates that Kelly's opinions are
not based on sufficient facts or the product of reliable
principles and methods. Defendants' objections to
Kelly's opinions are that he has reached incorrect
conclusions and failed to review important data. Both
objections implicate the weight, rather than admissibility of
Kelly's opinions. See Bryant v. 3M Co., 78
F.Supp.3d 626, 630 (S.D.Miss. 2015 (“[T]he Court should
focus solely on the proposed expert's ‘principles
and methodology, not on the conclusions that they
generate.'”) (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at
595); Gulf Restoration Network v. Oscar Renda
Contracting, Inc., No. 1:17CV130-LG-RHW, 2018 WL
6579171, at *2 (S.D.Miss. Dec. 13, 2018) (“[E]xpert
opinions which overlook certain data are not typically
excluded on that basis.”). Defendants may explore any
weakness in the way Kelly formed his opinions and conclusions
during cross examination. See Dearmond v. Wal-Mart La.
LLC, 335 Fed.Appx. 442, 444 (5th Cir. 2009)
(“Cross-examination at trial . . . is the proper forum
for discrediting testimony, and credibility determinations
are, of course, the province of [the fact finder].”).