Automotive Expert Witnesses Testimony Allowed in Part

Plaintiff sued the defendant because they believe that they are entitled to post-termination commissions for sales of automotive parts they landed on behalf of the defendant.  Both parties hired automotive expert witnesses to prove their cases and both parties filed motion to exclude.  The court granted these motions in part and denied them in part.

Facts:  This case (Jesa Enterprises LTD v. Thermoflex Corporation – United States District Court – Eastern District of Michigan – July 28th, 2017) involves a contract dispute. The plaintiff (Jesa) was a sales representative for the defendant (Thermoflex) and solicited new customers to purchase Thermoflex’s automotive products.  The main issue in this case is whether Jesa is entitled to post-termination commissions for the life of the parts on sales that Jesa secured from Thermoflex before their relationship terminated.  Both parties hired automotive expert witnesses to assist in proving their case.  Jesa hired Terrence A. Barr and Thermoflex hired  Donald E. Rose and Roger E. Rickey as rebuttal expert witnesses.  Both parties filed motions to exclude the other parties’ experts.

Discussion: Mr. Barr provided a thorough explanation of “life of the part” agreements in the automotive parts market. He reviewed the first amended complaint and the defendant’s answer for his report.  He opined that Jesa is entitled to pre and post termination commission on business he obtained for Thermoflex before the date of the contract termination.

The court determined that Barr is well qualified to offer expert witness testimony in this case. Thermoflex argues that Barr’s opinions are unreliable and unreliable because he did not draft, review or rely on any other information besides the pleadings in the case and and an unknown number of sales representatives.  The court opined that Barr’s opinion was based on his general understanding of the customs in the automotive parts industry.  In addition, his opinion is based on the bare-bones assumptions that the defendant and plaintiff entered into an oral agreement to sell automotive parts.  Thus, Barr’s opinions are not grounded in fact and does not pass muster under Daubert.  In addition, the court opined that Barr’s opinion amounts to a legal conclusion, which also renders it inadmissible.

The court did however, state that Barr is qualified to testify on the practices and customs of manufacturers’ representatives and their customers, which includes the issue of post-termination commissions.  Thus, Thermoflex’s motion to exclude Barr’s expert witness opinion was denied in part and granted in part.

Roger E. Rickey’s expert witness testimony was based on a his review of the pleadings in the case, among other material.  In addition, at his deposition, he stated that he has reviewed approximately 100 sales representative agreements and negotiates the same for his own company.  The court opines that Rickey can testify on the automotive parts industry and custom, but not whether Jesa is entitled to compensation as this amounts to a legal conclusion.

Last, the motion to exclude Donald E. Rose’s expert witness testimony results in the same opinion of the court.

Conclusion:  The motions to exclude the expert witness testimony of Terrence A. Barr, Donald E. Rose, and Roger E. Rickey are granted in part and denied in part.