Design Engineering Expert Witness Testimony Allowed

Plaintiff filed suit against the defendants related to an insurance claim after a hurricane.  The plaintiff hired a Design Engineering Expert Witness.  The defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.  The court denied the motion to exclude.

Facts:  This case (Kennedy v. Electric Insurance Company – United States District Court – Southern District of Georgia – May 13th, 2019) involves an insurance claim after Hurricane Matthew.  The storm surge from the hurricane significantly damaged the plaintiff’s property.  The dispute at issue is whether the damage to the plaintiff’s dock and walkway were excluded from a homeowner’s insurance policy that the plaintiff had with the defendant.    The policy precludes coverage over damage caused in whole or in part by the storm surge.  The plaintiff has hired Design Engineering Expert Witness John Tanner to provide testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  The defendant argues that Mr. Tanner is not qualified to be an expert in this case.  The court notes that, according to his CV, Tanner has 50 years of experience in structural design and management.  Currently, Tanner is only a registered professional engineer in Georgia.  In addition, the court notes that Tanner has extensive experience working as an engineer on port structures.  Thus, the court concludes that based on his extensive experience, Tanner is qualified to provide an expert opinion about the issues at hand.

The defendant argues that Tanner’s testimony should be excluded because it is premised on an inadequate or inaccurate factual foundation.  Specifically the defendant cites to Tanner’s deposition for numerous positions that Tanner allegedly took and are not reliable.  The court notes that Tanner’s deposition has not been entered into the record and these positions cannot be considered by the court at this stage in the proceedings.  The court also opines that the evidence in the record is not sufficient to challenge the reliability of Tanner’s opinions and statements contained in his expert report.  The court also opines that the plaintiff has carried his burden of establishing that Tanner’s opinions are reliable.  The court notes that Tanner’s opinions are based on relevant facts and are reasonably drawn from his premises.  Thus, Tanner’s opinions are reliable under Daubert.

The court also notes that the defendant argues that for the same reasons Tanner’s opinions are unreliable, they will also not assist the trier of fact.  The court opines that it has already found that Tanner’s opinions are reliable based on this record.  In addition, the court concludes that Tanner’s expert opinions are beyond the understanding of the average lay person and will assist the trier of fact.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of John Tanner is denied.