Economics Expert Witness Partially Allowed

Plaintiff sued defendant for negligence after he was involved in an fall while aboard a vessel owned by the defendant.  The plaintiff hired an Economics Expert Witness to provide testimony.  The defendant filed a motion to exclude this opinion, which was partially denied and partially deferred by the court.

Facts:  This case (Lawrence v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company, L.L.C. of Louisiana – United States District Court – Eastern District of Louisiana – May 31st, 2018) involves a slip and fall claim.  The plaintiff alleges that the defendant was negligent.  The defendant hired Economics Expert Witness Shael N. Wolfson to provide testimony in this case.  The defendant filed a motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of this individual.

Discussion: Wolfson is expected to provide testimony as to the decrease of earning capacity sustained by the plaintiff as a result of the incident.  Savant is expected to testify as to a life care plan that she developed specifically for the plaintiff.

The defendant argues that Wolfson depended on inappropriate income figures to calculate the value of lost wages in this case, stating that a lost wages claim should be calculated based on gross earnings or the year of the injury.  The defendant argues that Wolfson did not use the plaintiff’s 2015 earnings and, thus, his testimony should be excluded.  In addition, the defendant alleges that Wolfson’s figures are subjective belief and unsupported speculation, as Wolfson used the plaintiff’s highest earnings over a four year period even though his earnings decreased during the year of his injury.  Last, defendant argues that Wolfson’s analysis of the subsistence allowance and lost fringe benefits is not supported by the facts.

The court opines that Wolfson’s lost wage calculations should not be allowed, citing a fifth court opinion.  The court also notes that Wolfson did not create an average of plaintiff’s earnings over a number of years and then use that average as plaintiff’s earning base.  Wolfson only used the plaintiff’s earnings from 2013, the year in which the earnings were the highest, to determine the earnings base, despite the fact that the incident occurred in 2015.  The court continues by noting that Wolfson did not provide any explanation as to why he used the 2013 earnings rather than the more appropriate 2015 earnings.

In addition, the court has doubts as to whether Wolfson’s calculations of the values of lost subsistence and fringe benefits should be allowed.  The court notes that important assumptions made by Wolfon seem to lack factual foundation.  However, the court will defer this determination until the time where the court is in a better position to evaluate this issue.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness report of Shael N. Wolfson is granted in part and deferred in part.