Red Rocks Resources LLC v. Trident Steel Corporation
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 156 Defendant's Motion in Limine; denying 158 Defendant's Motion in Limine to Exclude John Hadjioannou, P.E. ; denying 161 Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence to Place Blam e on Non-Parties; granting 162 Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Exclude Mention of Innocent Seller Defense; granting 163 Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Exclude Dr. Gary W. Wooley. Signed by Honorable Robin J. Cauthron on 5/25/17. (lg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA
RED ROCKS RESOURCES L.L.C.,
d/b/a Red Rocks Oil and Gas
Operating, a Colorado Limited
TRIDENT STEEL CORPORATION,
a Missouri corporation,
Case No. CIV-14-0948-C
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Now before the Court are the following Motions: Plaintiff’s Motion in Limine to
Exclude Trident’s Witnesses and Evidence Attempting to Place Blame on Non-Parties
(Dkt. No. 161), Plaintiff’s Motion in Limine to Exclude Any Evidence or Mention of the
Alleged “Innocent Seller” Defense (Dkt. No. 162), Plaintiff’s Motion in Limine to Exclude
Mr. Gary W. Wooley as Trident’s Expert and to Exclude his Alleged Expert Report (Dkt.
No. 163), Trident Steel Corporation’s Motions in Limine (Dkt. No. 156), and Defendant
Trident Steel Corporation’s Motion in Limine to Exclude Certain Testimony of Plaintiff’s
Expert, John Hadjioannou, P.E. (Dkt. No. 158). The parties have responded and the
Motions are now at issue.
I. Plaintiff’s Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence Placing Blame on Non-Parties
Plaintiff requests this Court “forbid [Defendant] from . . . in any way mentioning or
insinuating that the liability for the defective product should be placed on non-parties to
this action.” (Pl.’s Mot. in Lim., Dkt. No. 161, p. 1.) Plaintiff argues a list of witnesses,
exhibits, and general arguments should be barred as irrelevant and misleading to the jury.
Plaintiff bases much of its argument on Defendant’s responses to the Complaint and
the witness and exhibit lists, which no longer govern the proceedings. The Final Pretrial
Report controls at trial and the Court will instruct the jury on the proper considerations for
each claim. The Court will not issue a blanket order preventing discussion of the actions
and non-actions of non-parties when one of the central issues is whether the subject casing
was defective at the time of sale. Thus, Defendant’s evidence of the manufacturing
process is relevant and will aid the jury’s understanding of the case. Plaintiff may submit
a limiting instruction to aid the jury at the time such evidence is admitted. Plaintiff’s
Motion is DENIED, but the Court will consider objections regarding any improper mention
of non-party liability at trial.
II. Plaintiff’s Motion in Limine to Exclude Innocent Seller Defense
Plaintiff requests the exclusion of any information related to the innocent seller
defense to Plaintiff’s manufacturer’s products liability claim because it is not an available
defense and any mention of it would be misleading to the jury. See 76 Okla. Stat.
§ 57.2(E). Defendant states the statute is not included in the Final Pretrial Report and it
will not reference the affirmative defense at trial. Defendant argues any order preventing
it from presenting information generally related to the manufacture, treatment, inspection,
and use of the subject casing would be overly broad and inhibit a meaningful defense. The
Court agrees. However, because the Motion only requests a specific prohibition of the
innocent seller defense, it is GRANTED.
III. Plaintiff’s Motion in Limine to Exclude Dr. Gary W. Wooley
Plaintiff requests the exclusion of Dr. Wooley’s testimony and expert report
materials. Defendant responded that it will not call Dr. Wooley as an expert, nor will it
introduce his expert reports. Dr. Wooley is not listed in the Final Pretrial Report. Given
Defendant’s concession, Plaintiff’s Motion is GRANTED.
IV. Defendant’s Motions in Limine
Defendant requests the Court exclude certain evidence from trial including: (a)
unrelated lawsuits and dissimilar products sold by Trident, (b) settlement negotiations, (c)
undisclosed demonstrative exhibits, (d) Trident’s financial worth, (e) certain undisclosed
opinions, (f) Trident’s insurance coverage, (g) attorneys’ fees and expenses, and (h) “for
the community” arguments. Each is addressed below.
A. Unrelated Lawsuits and Dissimilar Products Sold by Trident
Defendant requests the preclusion of any reference to other products it has sold or
other lawsuits involving those products. Defendant argues its customers order custom
products from various distributors and manufacturers that are used under materially
different circumstances. Any reference to a lawsuit involving other products would not
be relevant to whether the subject casing was defective and would force Defendant to show
the dissimilarities between its products, potentially confusing the jury. In support of its
argument, Defendant summarizes the governing law as “[e]vidence of the existence of
other alleged defects in products existing at a remote time, different place[,] or under
different circumstances and conditions generally is inadmissible.” (Def.’s Mot. in Lim.,
Dkt. No. 156, p. 3.) In support of this purported legal standard, Defendant cities cases
applying a rule of negligence, which the Court finds unpersuasive.
Plaintiff argues evidence of other defective casing from the Tema Oil & Gas case is
admissible because the circumstances were substantially similar to this case because both
products were from the same manufacturer and heat-treater, and Defendant sold the
products within a short timeframe to Plaintiff and Tema Oil & Gas. Plaintiff also intends
to introduce the evidence to show Defendant had notice the casing may be defective and
therefore should pay punitive damages.*
When applying Oklahoma law, the Tenth Circuit stated “[i]n a products liability
case, evidence of other accidents is not admissible to prove a defect unless the facts of the
other accidents are substantially similar.” Ahrens v. Ford Motor Co., 340 F.3d 1142,
1145–46 (10th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). The degree of similarity required depends
on what the proponent intends to prove with the evidence. Wheeler v. John Deere Co.,
862 F.2d 1404, 1407–08 (10th Cir. 1988). If the proponent seeks to show the existence of
a dangerous condition, there must be a high degree of similarity between the two sets of
evidence because the question “weighs directly on the ultimate issue to be decided by the
jury.” Id. at 1407. However, the requirement is relaxed if the evidence is submitted to
* The Court notes Defendant’s objection to punitive damages and does not purport to
make a ruling on the issue in this Order.
show “notice or awareness of the potential defect.” Id. at 1408 (citation omitted). It is
preferable for the proponent to lay the foundation of similarity outside the presence of the
jury. Id. at 1407 (citation omitted).
Here, Plaintiff seeks to use the comparison between the subject casing and the Tema
Oil & Gas casing to “prove the existence of manufacturing defects in the failed casing at
issue” and “to show that [Defendant] was aware, or did not care, that the casing it was
selling to [Plaintiff] was likely to contain defects.” (Pl.’s Resp. to Def.’s Mot. in Lim.,
Dkt. No. 183, p. 2.) Because whether a manufacturing defect existed in the subject casing
is an ultimate issue for the jury, Plaintiff will bear the burden of showing a high degree of
similarity between the two casing sets at a hearing outside the presence of the jury.
Accordingly, Defendant’s Motion is DENIED on this issue; however, the parties shall not
offer such evidence without first approaching the bench.
B. Settlement Negotiations
Defendant requests that the Court bar any reference to offers of settlement,
compromise, offer of payment, settlement agreement, or amount of settlement because the
information is irrelevant and prejudicial to Defendant. Plaintiff concedes it does not
intend to offer such evidence at trial. The Motion is GRANTED on this issue.
C. Undisclosed Demonstrative Exhibits
Defendant requests a prohibition of demonstrative exhibits until counselors have
had the opportunity to view them outside the presence of the jury. After Plaintiff’s
response, Defendant states the parties will come to an agreement regarding demonstrative
exhibits prior to trial. This issue is MOOT.
D. Trident’s Financial Worth
Defendant requests the exclusion of any reference to Defendant’s financial worth as
irrelevant and prejudicial. Plaintiff concedes this will not be at issue unless the jury
awards punitive damages. At this time, Defendant’s Motion is GRANTED on this issue
and the Court notes the decision is subject to reconsideration.
E. Undisclosed Expert Opinions or Certain Layperson Opinions
Defendant argues for the exclusion of two drilling managers’ testimony because
they should be considered experts. Defendant asserts Plaintiff is attempting to evade the
Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993) analysis and the disclosure
requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2) by eliciting testimony from witnesses about
Plaintiff’s operations and other conditions surrounding the subject casing.
responds that the managers will testify regarding their recollection of the drilling of the
Virgil Dougherty #4 Well. As long as the managers are offering testimony based on their
own experiences, they are considered fact witnesses. Defendant’s Motion in this issue is
F. Insurance Coverage
Defendant requests that the Court bar any reference to Defendant’s insurance
coverage. Plaintiff concedes and the Motion is GRANTED on this issue.
G. Attorneys’ Fees and Expenses
Defendant requests the exclusion of evidence regarding attorneys’ fees and
expenses at trial. Plaintiff concedes and the Motion is GRANTED on this issue.
H. “For the Community” Arguments
Defendant predicts Plaintiff may ask the jury to assess damages based on some
reason other than the proper evidence and jury instructions. This leads Defendant to ask
the Court to prevent Plaintiff from making statements along the line of “sending a message”
to Defendant’s management that the community demands justice. Plaintiff states it will
not assert these types of arguments during trial. Accordingly, Defendant’s Motion is
GRANTED on this issue.
V. Defendant’s Motion in Limine to Exclude John Hadjioannou, P.E.
Defendant argues for partial exclusion of Plaintiff’s expert, John Hadjioannou,
because he did not employ scientifically valid methodology in his report. Specifically,
Defendant challenges the information regarding the Tema Oil & Gas casing and the
nondestructive testing of the recovered and replacement casing from the Virgil Dougherty
A court must “ensure that any and all scientific testimony or evidence admitted is
not only relevant, but reliable.” Adamscheck v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co., 818 F.3d 576,
586 (10th Cir. 2016) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). First, the expert
testimony must be scientifically reliable, and second, it must be relevant under Fed. R.
Evid. 702. Id. at 588 nn. 7. A court will consider “the specific relation between an
expert's method, the proffered conclusions, and the particular factual circumstances of the
dispute, and not asymptotic perfection” to find proffered testimony is reliable and relevant.
Bitler v. A.O. Smith Corp., 400 F.3d 1227, 1234 (10th Cir. 2005).
Defendant has not challenged Hadjioannou’s qualifications as a witness, but argues
the method he employed was not scientifically sound. Defendant states Hadjioannou
simply reviewed a report provided by Plaintiff and did not conduct an independent
investigation to form his own opinion. Plaintiff responds Hadjioannou used the report
from the Tema Oil & Gas case to compare the different casing failures after he completed
his own analysis. After reviewing the report, it appears Hadjioannou conducted his own
tests of the subject casing and compared his results to the Tema Oil & Gas report, drawing
his own conclusions about the similarities of the defects found in both sets of casing.
Defendant argues the nondestructive testing conclusions were not scientifically
sound. Part of the argument is based on Hadjioannou’s word choice, which is not part of
his scientific method. The other problem cited was Hadjioannou’s reliance on the “WVEI
EMI Casing & Tubing Inspection Report” because the report did not specify the defect’s
nature. Defendant failed to attach the report, but the Court does not find any information
in Hadjioannou’s report that indicates his opinion is not based on facts that satisfy Rule
702’s reliability requirements. See Bitler, 400 F.3d at 1233. The Court also finds all the
information Defendant seeks to exclude is relevant to the claims presented and the jury
should be allowed to apply Hadjioannou’s information to the facts.
Defendant’s Motion is DENIED.
For the reasons stated, Plaintiff’s Motion in Limine to Exclude Evidence to Place
Blame on Non-Parties (Dkt. No. 161) is DENIED, Plaintiff’s Motion in Limine to Exclude
Mention of Innocent Seller Defense (Dkt. No. 162) is GRANTED, Plaintiff’s Motion in
Limine to Exclude Dr. Gary W. Wooley (Dkt. No. 163) is GRANTED, Defendant’s
Motions in Limine (Dkt. No. 156) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, and
Defendant’s Motion in Limine to Exclude John Hadjioannou, P.E. (Dkt. No. 158) is
IT IS SO ORDERED this 25th day of May, 2017.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?