Plaintiff filed suit against the defendant related to a hydrochloric acid spill. Plaintiff hired a Metallurgy Expert Witness to provide testimony. Defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying. The court granted the motion in part and denied the motion in part.
Facts: This case (Burroughs Diesel, Inc. v. Baker Petrolite, LLC et al – United States District Court – Southern District of Mississippi – October 22nd, 2019) involves a hydrochloric acid (HCI) spill. The plaintiff alleges that the spill created a HCI vapor cloud that engulfed its property causing damages to buildings, vehicles, inventory, tools, machines, and equipment. The plaintiff alleges that the HCI storage tank had a manufacturing defect and that the defendant was negligent in its maintenance of the tank. The plaintiff has hired Metallurgy Expert Witness Dr. Fernando Lorenzo to provide expert witness testimony. The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.
Discussion: The defendant first alleges that Lorenzo is not qualified to offer an opinion about the damage to the plaintiff’s property because he doesn’t have enough experience, education, or training regarding HCI. The plaintiff contends that Lorenzo has education and experience in the fields of metallurgy and mechanical engineering.
The court notes that Lorenzo has states that he has only worked on one insurance claim regarding an HCI spill. In addition, Lorenzo admitted that he has no other training, experience, or education involving HCI spills. The court does note, however, that he has worked with insurance companies and has provided estimates to commercial property owners.
The court opines that Lorenzo has enough education and experience to provide expert witness testimony about the damage caused by the HCI spill and that his lack of experience with HCI goes to the weight of the testimony and not its admissibility.
The defendant also argues that Lorenzo’s opinions are not reliable. The defendant claims that Lorenzo’s opinions as to the damage to the plaintiffs property includes several factual errors. The court notes that Lorenzo admitted these errors during his deposition and has corrected them. The court opines that the defendant is free to discuss these errors with Lorenzo during cross-examination, but the court will not exclude his expert witness opinions based on this basis alone.
Also, the defendant argues that the court should exclude Lorenzo’s opinions regarding the loss of useful life to the roofs on plaintiff’s metal buildings. Baker argues that Lorenzo’s opinions on this issue should be excluded because he did not personally inspect the roofs. The court opines that this argument goes to the weight of the testimony and not the admissibility.
Next, the defendant claims that the court should exclude Lorenzo’s opinion about the loss of useful life because he did not perform any testing to determine the thickness of the zinc coating on the metal panels. The court again opines that this argument goes to the weight of the testimony and not its admissibility.
The court, however, opines that Lorenzo’s opinions about the remaining useful life of the metal roofing panels is not reliable because of the “sketchy” factual basis and Lorenzo’s unsupported inferences and extrapolations from the already limited facts.
Conclusion: The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Fernando Lorenzo is granted in part and denied in part.