Structural Engineering Expert Witness Testimony Allowed

Plaintiff filed suit against defendants related to an insurance dispute.  Plaintiff hired a Structural Engineering Expert Witness to provide testimony.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert testimony.  The court granted the motion.

Facts:  This case (Affinity Mutual Insurance Company v. Thacker Air Conditioning-Refrigeration-Heating Inc – United States District Court – Northern District of Indiana – May 20th, 2019) involves an insurance dispute.  The plaintiff alleges that a roof collapsed as a result of a contractor’s installation of heating units in trusses supporting the building’s roof.  In order to prove this, the plaintiff hired Structural Engineering Expert Witness Daniel Honig.  The defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  Mr. Honig visited the site twice, reviewed various materials, and then issued a report in which he opined that the roof collapsed as a result of the defendant’s placement of the heating units.  The court opines that Mr. Honig did not provide any logical explanation or methodology for how he reached his opinion that the heating units caused the collapse.  Mr. Honig states that the roof shouldn’t have collapsed  because the building code required roofs to sustain twice the amount of weight as the snowstorm here would have added.  The court opines that he doesn’t tie that into his opinion that the heating united caused the collapse.

The court also notes that he did not opine that the building complied with the prior code to the installation of the heating unit, such that fault for the collapse could be attributed to those units.  In addition, Mr. Honig did not offer any analysis as to how much weight the existing roof could have sustained.

The court also opines that Mr. Honig’s report does not provide an adequate explanation to support his conclusory assertion that the collapse was caused by the defendant’s HVAC installation work.

The court also opines that Honig’s report makes passing reference to the limited collapse location, but does not offer any explanation for how Mr. Honig connects that factor to his opinion.

The court opines that Honig’s lack of analysis and explanation is fatal to his opinion.  The court further notes that even though Mr. Honig is qualified as a structural engineer, he can’t render opinions unless those opinions are based upon a recognized scientific method and are reliable and relevant.

The court continues by stating that while Honig’s report refers in passing to certain factors as the basis for his opinion, it fails to offer any explanation for why those factors are significant or why his inferences were justified. Without a showing that Mr. Honig grounded his opinions in a reliable methodology, his opinions cannot be admitted.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Daniel Honig is granted