Appraisal & Valuation Expert Witness Testimony Allowed

Plaintiff filed suit against the defendant related to the seizure of an RV.  The plaintiff hired an Appraisal & Valuation Expert Witness to provide testimony.  The defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.  The court denied the motion.

Facts:  This case (Ruiz v. Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois – United States District Court – Southern District of Florida – May 9th, 2019) involves the seizure of a recreational vehicle owned by the plaintiff.  The RV was seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The only relevant issue at this time involves the value of the RV.  The plaintiff has hired Appraisal & Valuation Expert Witness Roy Bent, Jr. to provide testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  The defendant challenges the methodology employed by Bent and claims that he will offer nothing more than a law opinion at trial.

The court notes that this is not a “hard science” case as the main issues involve the plaintiff’s status as a bona fide purchaser of the RV and the vehicles value at the time the FBI confiscated it.  The court further states that Mr. Bent’s conclusions about the value of the RV involves his application of non-scientific, experience-based principles and that the court must look beyond whether or not he applied “hard science” to support his conclusions and instead assess whether he explained how his experience led him to his conclusions, why his experience provides a sufficient basis for those conclusions, and how that experience is reliably applied to the facts of this case.

The court concludes that defendant’s argument that Mr. Bent’s methodology is not based on scientific or technical knowledge is not supported.  The court also states that the fact that Bent based his testimony on his own experience does not mean that his expert opinion should be excluded.

The court also opines that it is satisfied that Mr. Bent’s experience allows him to reach the conclusion as to the value of the RV, based on the methods he normally employs in conducting appraisals on similar vehicles.  The court states that Mr. Bent sufficiently explained how his experience led him to the conclusions he made in case, which were supported by the facts known to him at the time he reached those conclusions.

The court also opines that Bent is not offering a lay opinion.  The court states that one factor he used in coming to his conclusions involve averaging prices for similar RVs.  In addition, the court notes that he analyzed several other factors that could impact the value of the vehicle at the time of the confiscation.  Thus, the court concludes that his opinions fit within the confines of Rule 702.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Roy Bent, Jr is denied.