Finance Expert Witness Testimony Not Allowed in Corporate Defamation Litigation

Plaintiff filed suit against defendant related to a defamation claim.  Defendant hired a Finance Expert Witness to provide testimony.  Plaintiff filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.  The court granted the motion.

Facts:  This case (Eshelman v. Auerbach et al – United States District Court – Eastern District of North Carolina – March 8th, 2019) involves a defamation claim.  The plaintiff alleges that the defendants defamed him in statements that the defendants made in January 2016 concerning the plaintiff in opposing the plaintiff’s proposal for the board of directors of the defendant.  The defendant has hired Finance Expert Witness Dr. Anil Shivdasani to provide testimony.  The plaintiff has filed a motion to exclude the testimony of this expert.

Discussion:  Shivdasani is the Wells Fargo Distinguished Professor of Finance and the Director of the Wells Fargo Center for Corporate Finance at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He received a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in finance from Ohio University and has published articles in numerous peer-reviewed journals.  The defendant has hired Shivdasani to opine on whether certain statements made by the defendant have harmed the plaintiff’s reputation and business opportunities.

The court opines that, as for relevance, some of Shivdasani’s opinions are within the common experience of law jurors and that she merely explains to the jurors what to conclude about alleged harm to reputation in the community based on accomplishments and opportunities that the defendant had before and after the alleged defamatory statements.  The court opines that, at atrial, the defendant can present evidence about the plaintiff’s professional accomplishments and opportunities before and after the defendant allegedly made the defamatory statements without using an expert witness.  Any evidence which merely tells the jury what to conclude is not helpful to the jury.

In addition, the court notes that some of Shivdasani’s opinions improperly evaluate the state of mind of third parties who were deciding whether to hire Eshelman as a director or deciding what responsibilities she should have.  The court notes that such testimony will not be helpful to the jury and should be excluded.

Also, Shivdasani’s model does not fit the facts of this case.  As for reliability, Shivdasani’s methodology is not reliable based on a review of the Daubert factors in this case.  The court opines that the defendant has failed to show that Shivdasani’s opinion is the product of reliable methodology.  Thus, the motion to exclude is granted.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Anil Shivdasani is granted.