Real Estate Broker Expert Witness Allowed

Plaintiff sued defendant for paying her less than the minimum wage during her employment as a maid.  Defendant hired a Real Estate Broker Expert Witness to provide testimony, which was challenged by the plaintiff.  The court denied the motion to exclude.

Facts:  This case (Chavez v. Arancedo – United States District Court – Southern District of Florida – September 25th, 2018) involves a claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the Florida Minimum Wage Act (“FMWA”).  The plaintiff alleges that she worked for the defendant as a maid and was paid below the Federal and Florida minimum wage for the services she provided to the defendant.  The defendant denies these allegations.  The defendant has hired Thania Vernon (Real Estate Broker Expert Witness) to provide testimony on her behalf.  The plaintiff has filed a motion to exclude this expert witness from testifying.

Discussion: The defendant would like to use Ms. Vernon to support her defenses that she is entitled to a cost credit for the plaintiff’s room that was occupied at the defendant’s residence.  The defendant alleges that the cost credit should be used to reduce wages entitled under the FLSA.

The plaintiff alleges that Ms. Vernon is not qualified to be an expert in this case because she has 1) never testified as an expert, 2) never taught classes in real estate, or 3) published anything related to the FLSA.  The court opines that Ms. Vernon’s lack of experience in litigation is not enough to exclude her as an expert witness.  In addition, the court rules that she has twenty-seven years of experience in real estate which qualifies her as an expert in determining the market value of the room that was occupied by the plaintiff.

The plaintiff also argues that Ms. Vernon’s testimony should be excluded because she did not rely on data in her expert report and that she reviewed only two property listings.  In addition, the plaintiff alleges that Ms. Vernon did not inspect the premises before issuing her opinion, did not review a single electric, water, or cable bill, and did not review and public records to ascertain whether or not there was a mortgage on the property.

The court agrees with the defendant by opining that Ms. Vernon used a reliable methodology of comparable sales to determine what is generally accepted in the real estate community for the defendant’s residence during the period of time that the plaintiff lived there.  In addition, the court determines that it is unclear why Ms. Vernon is required to inspect the premises before issuing her opinion, review household utility bills, or consult public records to determine whether or not there was a mortgage on the property.

The court also opines that Ms. Vernon’s expert report will be helpful to the trier of fact in this case.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Thania Vernon is denied.