Plaintiff filed sued against defendant for an alleged breach of a Broker-Carrier Agreement. The defendant hired a Logistics/Freight Forwarding Expert Witness to provide expert testimony. The plaintiff filed a motion to exclude this testimony, which was granted in part and denied in part by the court.
Facts: This case (Hogan Logistics, Inc. v. Davis Transfer Company,Inc. – United States District Court – Eastern District of Missouri – January 9th, 2018) involves a dispute over a contract interpretation. The plaintiff is a freight broker and third-party logistics company and contracts with freight carriers, like the defendant, to complete the transport of its goods. The plaintiff and defendant entered into a Broker-Carrier Agreement. The plaintiff contends that the defendant breached Section 10 of the agreement when it directly solicited freight traffic from one of the plaintiff’s customers. The two parties provide competing interpretations of the meaning of certain terms in the agreement. The defendant hired Logistics/Freight Forwarding Expert Witness Henry E. Seaton to provide expert witness testimony in this case. The defendants have filed a motion to exclude Seaton’s expert witness testimony.
Discussion: The plaintiff argues that the Mr. Seaton’s testimony should be excluded because it 1) offers legal conclusions about the meaning of the back-solicitation clause; 2) opines on what the parties intended, thus expropriating the jury’s function; 3) applying his interpretation of the back-solicitation clause to the facts of the case, thus usurping the role of the jury; 4) offers opinions that are not admissible to the meaning of certain terms as they do not have accepted meaning in the industry.
The defendant responds by stating that Mr. Seaton’s testimony should be allowed because he does not offer legal conclusions or opinions.
The court opines that the testimony by Mr. Seaton on the custom and usage of terms in the transportation industry would assist the jury in determining the issues in this case. The court continues by stating that transportation industry terms are not common knowledge. The court also concludes that numerous opinions by Mr. Seaton are properly excluded because they offer legal conclusions. In addition, numerous parts of Mr. Seaton’s testimony define terms of the agreement and applies them to the facts of the case, which assists in interpreting the meaning of the agreement. This, the court argues, invades the province of the jury as they offer conclusions which the defendant asks the jury to reach, which amounts to offering legal conclusions.
In addition, Mr. Seaton’s opinions as to the meaning of three terms will be allowed as arguments like this go to the weight of the testimony and not the admissibility. Thus, Mr. Seaton will be allowed to testify on those terms as to whether they have acquired a well-recognized meaning in the transportation industry.
Conclusion: The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Henry E. Seaton is denied in part and granted in part.