Personal Property Valuation Expert Witness Testimony Allowed In Property Damage Litigation

Summary: Defendant hired a Personal Property Valuation Expert Witness to provide testimony in relation to damage caused by Hurricane Harvey despite the plaintiff’s claim that the expert did not keep his notes.

Facts:  This case (Mt Hawley Insurance Company v. TFP Properties III LLC – United States District Court – Southern District of Texas – July 19th, 2019) involves property damage that occurred during Hurricane Harvey.  The plaintiff has filed the action against the defendant asserting that it had paid all sums owing under a property casualty policy on a commercial property that was damaged during the hurricane.  The defendant has hired Sean Wiley, a Personal Property Valuation Expert Witness, to provide expert testimony.  The plaintiff has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  The plaintiff states that it has no complaint about Wiley’s experience, qualification, or the relevance of his opinion. The plaintiff maintains challenges the reliability of Wiley’s opinion.

The court notes that Wiley stated that he used the Internet and called supply houses to investigate the pricing of materials.  In addition, he contacted subcontractors who research labor costs.  The court also notes that he compiled his results into task-based unit costs, which combined labor and materials.  In addition, the court states that Wiley produced an itemized bid of unit costs per square foot.  The court notes that Wiley testified that this is the ordinary practice of compiling a construction bid.

The court states that the plaintiff’s complaint is that Wiley did not keep notes detailing his research to reveal the specific sources of his cost estimates.  The court also notes that the plaintiff could not testify as to whether he included certain items such as architectural fees, permit fees, sales tax, and overhead or profit.

The court opines that in this case there is no challenge to Wiley’s methodology.  The court also notes that Wiley’s source was not his own “feeling” but multiple suppliers and subcontractors familiar with the type of work to be done.  The court also opines that the fact that he did not keep a record of the specific sources of his estimate does not preclude the plaintiff from consulting appropriate sources to see if the numbers that Wiley came up with are supportable.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Sean Wiley is denied.