Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad Corp. v. Ingram Barge Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division

November 6, 2017

DAKOTA, MINNESOTA & EASTERN RAILROAD CORPORATION, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
INGRAM BARGE COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER ON MOTION IN LIMINE

          Leonard T. Strand, Chief Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This case is before me on a motion (Doc. No. 29) in limine through which plaintiff Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad Corporation (DME) seeks to exclude the testimony of an expert witness. Defendant Ingram Barge Company (Ingram) has filed a resistance (Doc. No. 31) and DME has filed a reply (Doc. No. 33). Oral argument is not necessary.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This case arises from two allisions[1] on the Upper Mississippi River. Plaintiffs DME and Soo Line Railroad Company (Soo) commenced this action in admiralty on December 10, 2015, by filing a complaint (Doc. No. 2) against Ingram. In general, plaintiffs allege that DME owns the Sabula Bridge, a railroad bridge that crosses the Upper Mississippi River near mile 535.0, and that Soo owns the LaCrosse Bridge, a railroad bridge that crosses the Upper Mississippi River near mile 699.8.[2] They further allege that Ingram is in the business of transporting barges on the Upper Mississippi River and elsewhere.

         In their First Claim for Relief, plaintiffs allege that on April 24, 2015, Ingram was operating the M/V Aubrey B Harwell Jr while pushing barges upstream when one or more of the barges struck appurtenant structures of the Sabula Bridge. In their Second Claim for Relief, plaintiffs allege that on September 7, 2015, Ingram was operating the M/V Kim W Nowell while pushing barges downstream when one or more of the barges struck appurtenant structures of the LaCrosse Bridge. With regard to both incidents, plaintiffs make various allegations of fault and negligence on the part of Ingram and the captains, pilots and crews of the respective vessels. Plaintiffs request judgment in an amount sufficient to compensate them for the resulting damages.

         Ingram filed an answer (Doc. No. 13) on January 25, 2016, in which it denied liability to either plaintiff and raised various defenses, including comparative fault. During discovery, Ingram designated Dana A. Goward, a retired captain of the United States Coast Guard, as a witness who will provide expert opinion testimony at trial. DME now seeks to exclude Goward's testimony. The bench trial in this matter is scheduled to begin on November 28, 2017.

         III. APPLICABLE STANDARDS

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 governs the admission of expert testimony. The rule states that a qualified expert 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

Fed. R. Evid. 702. To be admissible, expert testimony must be both relevant and reliable. Weisgram v. Marley Co., 169 F.3d 514, 517 (8th Cir. 1999), aff'd, 528 U.S. 440 (2000). Evidence is relevant if it tends to make a fact more or less probable and is of consequence in determining the action. Fed.R.Evid. 401. Evidence is reliable if it is useful to the finder of fact in deciding an ultimate issue of fact, the expert is qualified and the evidence used by the expert is reliable. Peters v. Woodbury Cty., Iowa, 979 F.Supp.2d 909, 919 (N.D. Iowa 2013), aff'd sub nom. Peters v. Risdal, 786 F.3d 1095 (8th Cir. 2015). The trial court has broad discretion when determining the reliability of expert testimony. United States v. Vesey, 338 F.3d 912, 916 (8th Cir. 2003). Doubts on whether the testimony will be helpful should be resolved in favor of admissibility. Peters, 979 F.Supp.2d at 919, quoting Larabee v. MM&L Int'l Corp., 896 F.2d 1112, 1116 n.6 (8th Cir. 1990).

         Federal Rule of Evidence 704(a) provides that expert evidence is admissible even if it embraces an ultimate issue in the case. Fed.R.Evid. 704(a). However, opinions that merely tell the trier of fact what result to reach are not admissible. Langenbau v. Med-trans Corp., 167 F.Supp.3d 983, 995 (N.D. Iowa 2016); Lee v. Andersen, 616 F.3d 803, 808-09 (8th Cir. 2010). Generally, questions of law are not a proper subject of expert testimony. United States v. Klaphake, 64 F.3d 435, 438-39 (8th Cir. 1995). If an expert's testimony is "so couched in legal conclusions that it supplies the fact finder with no information other than what the witness believes the verdict should be, " it is inadmissible. Williams v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 922 F.2d 1357, 1360 (8th Cir. 1990).

         Under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), the district court must perform a "gatekeeping function" to ensure that irrelevant or unreliable expert testimony is not introduced into evidence. See, e.g., In re Zurn Pex Plumbing Prod. Liab. Litig., 644 F.3d 604, 613 (8th Cir. 2001). However, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained that this concern is not paramount when the case will be tried to the court, rather than to a jury:

The main purpose of Daubert exclusion is to protect juries from being swayed by dubious scientific testimony. That interest is not implicated at the class certification stage where the judge is the decision maker. The district court's "gatekeeping function" under Daubert ensures that expert evidence "submitted to the jury" is sufficiently relevant and reliable, Bonner v. ISP Technologies, Inc., 259 F.3d 924, 929 (8th Cir. 2001) (emphasis added), but "[t]here is less need for the gatekeeper to keep the gate when the gatekeeper is keeping the gate only for himself, " United States v. Brown, 415 F.3d 1257, 1269 (11th Cir. 2005). Similar reasons support less stringent application of Daubert in bench trials. See Charles Alan Wright, Victor James Gold, 29 Fed. Prac. & Proc. Evid. § 6266, n. 90.2 (2010), and cases cited. The "usual concerns of the [Daubert] rule-keeping unreliable expert testimony from the jury-are not present in such a setting." Metavante Corp. v. Emigrant Sav. Bank, 619 F.3d 748, 760 (7th Cir. 2010).

Id.

         IV. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.