Court: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
Case Name: Dean v. Sea Supply, Inc.
Citation: 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 222640
The plaintiff was captain of the Jessica Elizabeth, a vessel owned, operated, and crewed by the defendant, Sea Supply, Inc. While on board the vessel, the plaintiff slipped and fell suffering injuries to his back and neck. The plaintiff alleged that his injuries were caused by the defendant’s negligence and breach of duty to provide a seaworthy vessel, and further alleged that the defendant was liable for his injuries under the Jones Act. The defendants sought to exclude the testimony of the plaintiff’s maritime liability expert.
The Maritime Expert
The plaintiff’s expert witness was a maritime consultant with 25 years of experience in maritime navigation, bridge safety, navigation training, towing, line handling, safe lifting, anchoring, fire fighting, stability and damage control, and vessel inspection/auditing for navigation and pollution prevention. The expert graduated from the United States Coast Guard Academy, and his career with the Coast Guard included tours as Deck Watch Officer, Deck Department Head, Navigator, Weapons Department Head, Tactical Action Officer, Navigation Safety Training Team Leader, and Commanding Officer aboard various vessels.
The defendant argued that the expert’s proposed testimony and report did not provide any technical, scientific, or other specialized knowledge that would help the court understand the evidence.
The defendant further argued that the expert’s opinions were not proper as they referenced safety policies that were not relevant to the case.The defendants argued that in order to support his statement that slip-and-fall incidents commonly caused injuries, the expert made reference to the safety manuals of other companies.
The defendant further contended that the maritime expert’s report made legal determinations as to federal regulations and Coast Guard authorities. The defendant asserted that it was not proper for an expert to give a legal opinion, and that his opinions should therefore be excluded. The plaintiff opposed the defendant’s contentions submitting that the purpose of the testimony was to demonstrate that the defendant failed to perform its duty towards the vessel’s employees. The plaintiff further asserted that the maritime expert’s opinion was based on his inspection of the vessel in question.
The court denied the defendant’s motion to exclude the testimony of the plaintiff’s maritime expert.
The court found that the plaintiff’s maritime expert was sufficiently qualified as per his education and experience to offer testimony as an expert. His opinions were rendered using the appropriate methodology. The court further found that the report’s references to federal regulations and coast guard regulations were proper as evidence of possible negligence on the part of the defendant.