Mining Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Coal Mining Dispute

Mining Expert Witness to provide testimony because his experience in mining was sufficient to provide expert witness testimony,

Facts:  This case (CDS Family Trust, et al. v. Ernest R. Martin, et al. – United States District Court – District of Maryland – February 11th, 2019) involves an allegation that the defendants wrongfully mined coal from an area where they did not own mining rights.  The plaintiff has hired Mining Expert Witness Larry McDowell to provide testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  The defendants first state that Mr. McDowell’s mining experience is not sufficient in duration and too remote in time to allow him to opine as to which coal seam was mined in this case.  The defendants argue that Mr. McDowell’s eight years of work for a mining company thirty years ago renders him as not qualified.  The court opines that there is no evidence that coal seam identification has evolved significantly since 1988, nor that eight years is an insufficient length of time to develop such expertise.

In addition, the court opines that Mr. McDowell’s opinion in this area is limited to opining that the coal in question belonged to the Upper Freeport seam, something that is not disputed by the defendants’ own expert.

Regarding reliability, the defendants criticize Mr. McDowell’s reliance on the West Virginia Geological Survey, Maryland’s equivalent survey, as well as on the mining permit issued in this case by the Bureau of Mines.  The court opines that it is not clear why Mr. McDowell’s use of these resources renders his opinion as unreliable.  The court continues by stating that Mr. McDowell’s opinion is consistent with the defendants’ expert opinion.  Thus, the court opines that it will not preclude Mr. McDowell from offering the opinion that the coal at issue was from the Upper Freeport seam.

Also, the defendants also attack Mr. McDowell’s credentials for determining the size and location of the disputed area where the mining took place, especially his expertise in utilizing Google Earth and Google Images.  The court opines that it is not apparent from the defendants’ arguments why Mr. McDowell’s experience are lacking to such a degree so that his expert testimony should be excluded.  In addition, Mr. McDowell shows that Google Earth and Good Images are commonly used in the engineering, surveying, and mining industries.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Larry McDowell is denied