Maddox v. Rockin D Marine Services, LLC et al
ORDER & REASONS granting 24 Motion to Exclude the proposed testimony of plaintiff's safety expert, Don (D.J.) Green. Signed by Judge Sarah S. Vance on 1/3/2017. (mmm)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
ROCKIN D MARINE SERVICES, LLC
AND ROCKIN D OFFSHORE, LLC
SECTION “R” (2)
ORDER AND REASONS
Defendants, Rockin D Marine Services, LLC and Rockin D Offshore,
LLC, move to exclude the proposed testimony of plaintiff’s safety expert, Don
(D.J.) Green. Because Green’s testimony does not assist the trier of fact to
understand the evidence or determine a fact in issue, the Court excludes it.1
Plaintiff, Dennie Maddox, was injured when he and a co-worker lifted
a heavy lead battery to a vessel owned by Defendants, Rockin D Marine
Services, LLC and Rockin D Offshore, LLC. Plaintiff contends that the
deckhand who was helping him lift the battery failed to follow his direction
to set the battery down on the galley threshold and instead took the battery
R. Doc. 24.
too quickly over the threshold and down the galley steps, which caused
Plaintiff to strain his back. Plaintiff proposes to call Don Green as a marine
Green has opined that Defendants failed to provide a
reasonably safe place to work or a seaworthy vessel because the deckhand
failed to follow Plaintiff’s instructions and the distance between the step and
the sill made the lifting maneuver unsafe. Defendants now seek to exclude
Green from testifying because they contend that his opinion does not aid the
trier of fact to understand any scientific, technical, or matter involving
Expert Testimony Must Assist the Trier of Fact.
Under Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence,
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
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and
methods to the facts of the case.
Fed. R. Evid. 702. Thus, for expert opinion to be admissible, the expert must
be qualified and his opinion must assist the trier of fact to understand the
evidence or determine a fact at issue. Expert testimony is superfluous if the
facts can be accurately and intelligently described to the jury, and the jury is
as capable of comprehending them and drawing conclusions from them as
purportedly specialized experts. Salem v. United States Lines Co., 370 U.S.
31, 36 (1962).
Here, the issues do not require scientific, technical, or specialized
knowledge. Maddox allegedly hurt his back when he was helping another
crew member carry a battery weighing approximately 120 pounds across a
raised door sill. It is well within the competence of the average juror to assess
whether this was not a reasonably safe maneuver. See Peters v. Five Star
Marine Service, 898 F. 2d 448, 449-450 (5th Cir. 1990); see also Alvarado
v. Diamond Offshore Mgmt. Co., No. 11-25, 2011 WL 4948031, at *3 (E.D.
La. Oct. 18, 2011) (excluding expert testimony regarding task of lifting 50 to
60 pound sacks); Gayle v. Louisiana Dock Co., No. 99-3110, 2000 WL
1059815 (E.D. La. July 31, 2000)(proffered expert testimony not helpful to
the jury when issue is whether employee needed assistance to lift heavy
objects high enough to clear a railing). There is nothing uniquely maritime
or technical about the task at issue that requires expert assistance. Further,
a review of Green’s expert report reveals that it is bereft of the application of
any scientific or technical knowledge. He opines that defendants failed to
provide adequate instructions and procedures, but he does not identify what
those procedures should have been. He opines that the steps were too far
from the door sill, not based on any knowledge or principal of ship design or
safety regulation, but because someone testified that this was so.2 He offers
no reason based on his purported expertise why this is true. Indeed, in
Plaintiff’s response, he contends that Green is not really commenting on the
ship’s design, but on the need for “better” (albeit unidentified) “procedures”
for lifting 125 pound batteries. 3
For all of the foregoing reasons, Green’s proposed testimony will not
assist the trier of fact, and Defendants’ motion to exclude it is GRANTED.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this _____ day of January, 2017.
SARAH S. VANCE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
See R. Doc. 24-4 at 3.
R. Doc. 25 at 7.
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