Construction Expert Witness Testimony Allowed Under Daubert in Damaged Roof Litigation

Plaintiff filed suit against defendant related to a damaged roof.  The plaintiff hired a Construction Expert Witness to provide testimony.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude the testimony of this expert.  The court denied the motion under Daubert.

Facts: This case (Finch et al v. Owners Insurance Company et al – United States District Court – Southern District of Georgia – Februrary 4th, 2019) involves an insurance claim which resulted from a damaged roof.  The roof was damaged during a hailstorm.  This case is about whether the hail damage caused water intrusion and resulting damage.  The plaintiff has hired Construction Expert Witness Stuart Gregory to provide testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  The defendant claims that Mr. Gregory does not have the education or experience to offer an opinion as to whether the hail damage caused the water intrusion.  Mr. Gregory has worked in the construction business since 1981, is a certified building contractor in Florida and has been involved in numerous residential and commercial building projects. For the past five years, his construction company has worked on projects to repair water intrusion damage caused by both construction defects and weather damage.  The court opines that based on his certifications, experience in residential and commercial construction, and as an expert witness in construction defect and water intrusion cases, Mr. Gregory is qualified to offer an expert opinion in this case.

The defendant argues that Mr. Gregory’s testimony is not reliable because he used Darrell Finch’s representation about hail damage, water infiltration, and the timeline of events to render his opinion.  The defendant argues that, because Darrell Finch owns a partial interest in the property and is the plaintiff’s son, he is too biased to rely on for information in this case.  The court opines that experts may rely on hearsay testimony if it is the type of evidence reasonably relied on by experts in that field.  The court opines that Mr. Gregory relied on other sources of information besides Darrell Finch to determine the background of events.  The court further opines that Mr. Gregory’s use of Darrell Finch’s representations does not render his opinion as unreliable.

The defendant also alleges that Mr. Gregory’s inability to inspect the damaged roof renders his opinion unreliable.  The court opines that this criticism is best raised at cross-examination as it goes to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility.

The court also noted that Mr. Gregory’s opinion is crucial to plaintiff’s burden of proof causation and that his testimony goes to the heart of that issue.  Thus, the court opines that Mr. Gregory’s testimony goes to the heart of that issue, and thus is helpful to the fact finder and “fits” this case.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Stuart Gregory is denied under Daubert.