Professional Engineering Expert Witness Allowed to Testify in Pollution Case

A Professional Engineering Expert Witness to provide testimony in a pollution litigation because his opinions were based on facts.

Facts: This case (Gulf Restoration Network v. Oscar Renda Contracting, Inc. – United States District Court – Southern District of Mississippi – December 13th, 2018) involves a pollution claim.  The plaintiff argues that the defendant has allowed massive flows of pollution into the Biloxi Bay and other bayous while working on the East Biloxi Street Repair Program.  The plaintiff allege that the violations began in August, 2014 when a 55 mile linear construction project was started and has continued with each subsequent rain even through the present.  The plaintiff has hired Professional Engineering Expert Witness Renee Robertson to provide testimony on their behalf.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  Robertson was hired to assess a sample of stormwater controls and management provided by Oscar Renda Contracting to ascertain if they were compliant with the requirements of stormwater controls, inspections, and management provided in the Storm Water Prevention Plans.  The defendant alleges that Robertson is not qualified to opine about the violations alleged in this case.  In addition, the defendant questions whether expert testimony is necessary to prove a violation of the Clean Water Act as a lay person could opine on the same issues.

Specifically, the defendant argues that 1) Robertson did not properly draw conclusions about the entirety of the defendant’s pollution controls; 2) Robertson’s opinion on the lifespan of the sediment barriers is not independent; and 3) Robertson did not properly rely on the defendant’s bid price for stormwater controls.  The court opines that these objections go to the sources and bases of her opinions and do not justify excluding Robertson’s testimony.

In addition, the defendant also argues that Robertson’s assumptions underlying her analysis and conclusions are not supported.  The court opines that all of the assumptions the defendant challenges are based on the plaintiff’s version of the facts that are in dispute, which make these objections go to the weight and credibility of the testimony rather than its admissibility.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Renee Robertson is denied.