Admiralty & Maritime Expert Witness Allowed in Part

Plaintiff sued defendant after he tripped and fell while working on a booster barge.  The defendant hired an Admiralty & Maritime Expert Witness to provide expert witness testimony, which was denied in part and granted in part by the court.

Facts:  This case (Bergeron v. Great Lakes Dredging & Dock Co – United States District Court – Western District of Louisiana – October 9th, 2018) is a personal injury claim.  The plaintiff alleges that he was injured while working on the booster barge ALCO, which is a support vessel for the dredge PONTCHARTRAIN.  The plaintiff alleges that freezing rain and wind caused him to slip and fall on the ALCO’s icy deck.  The defendant hired Marc. A. Fazioli (Admiralty & Maritime Expert Witness) to provide testimony on its behalf.  The plaintiff has filed a motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Mr. Fazioli.

Discussion:  Fazioli’s report states that the plaintiff was responsible for monitoring the conditions and safety of the barge deck and it was not the responsibility of the personnel on board the PONTCHARTRAIN.  Also, Fazioli states that the plaintiff was directly responsible for monitoring his own safety while transiting the decks of the barge.

The plaintiff argues that Mr. Fazioli’s testimony should be excluded because his methodologies and reasoning are not reliable as he overlooks the acts of the defendants which led to the accident and relies on an incorrect application of maritime law.  The defendant states that these arguments go to the weight of the testimony and not the admissibility.

The court opines that any purported deficiencies in data may be raised on cross-examination and are not grounds for exclusion.  The court further states that these arguments go to the weight of the testimony and not the reliability.  The court opines that the plaintiff fails to demonstrate that Fazioli’s testimony is unreliable under Daubert.  The court also opines that an expert may not opine that a party was negligent or contributorily negligent.  The court continues by stating that Fazioli may testify on the standard of care for issues within his expertise and whether the parties have met that standard.

The court also states that an expert is not permitted to provide legal conclusions nor may an expert usurp the role of the court.  As Fazioli does not have any formalized training or experience in the law, he may not provide legal conclusions about the parties’ compliance with the law or legal duties.  Last, the court opines that Fazioli’s experience does not qualify him to opine on meteorological conditions.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Marc A. Fazioli is granted in part and denied in part