Plaintiff filed suit against defendant related to an injury sustained on board a tender boat. The plaintiff hired an Admiralty & Maritime Expert Witness to provide expert testimony. Defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying. The court denied the motion to exclude.
Facts: This case (PACINELLI v. CARNIVAL CORPORATION – United States District Court – Southern District of Florida – July 19th, 2019) involves a fall that occurred on board a tender boat. The plaintiff alleges that while he was stepping from the cruise ship, the defendant failed to use a gangplank and that passengers had to step directly from the ship onto the tender. The plaintiff alleges that his foot became caught between the side of the tender and the cruise ship, which severely injured his ankle. The plaintiff has hired Admiralty & Maritime Expert Witness Captain Bret C. Gilliam to provide testimony. The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.
Discussion: The defendant argues that Captain Gilliam presents himself as a maritime safety expert but his opinions are unreliable, conclusory, and based on inadmissible hearsay. The defendant also claims that Captain Gilliam is not qualified to offer an opinion in this case and that his testimony is not helpful in that it mirrors that of an attorney, not a maritime expert.
The defendant argues that Captain Gilliam should not be allowed to serve as an expert because he is not qualified to opine on whether the defendant breached its duty of care. The defendant also claims that Captain Gilliam’s experience is just limited to diving emergencies. Because Captain Gilliam’s experience is unrelated to the procedures about the disembarkation from a cruise ship to a tender boat, the defendant argues that Captain Gilliam’s testimony should be excluded under Daubert.
The court opines that the defendant’s argument is misplaced because Captain Gilliam has experience related to the operation and safety protocols of maritime vessels. The court opines that Captain Gilliam’s background, experience, and history with the operation of safety protocols qualifies him to offer an expert opinion in this case.
The defendant also claims Captain Gilliam’s testimony should be excluded because he relied on a discernible methodology. The defendant claims that Captain Gilliam only reviewed the complaint, the plaintiff’s written discovery, medical responses, and the plaintiff’s deposition testimony. Also, the defendant claims that Captian Gilliam’s opinions should be excluded because he is just a mouthpiece for the testimony of the other lay witnesses.
The court opines that the defendant’s argument is not convincing because Captain Gilliam relied on sworn testimony to develop his opinion that safety protocols may not have been followed correctly. While the court agrees that the defendant has identified potential weaknesses in Captain Gilliam’s expert report, the court concludes that it cannot find that it is unreliable under Daubert.
The court also notes that it will exclude Captain Gilliam’s testimony if it consists of any legal conclusions.
Conclusion: The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Captain Bret C. Gilliam is denied.