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CDS Family Trust v. Martin

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 11, 2019

CDS FAMILY TRUST, et al, Plaintiff,
v.
ERNEST R. MARTIN, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          J. Mark Coulson United States Magistrate Judge.

         By consent of the parties, this matter is before me for all proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Now pending before the Court are ECF Nos. 136 and 139 filed by Defendants Corsa Coal Corp. (“Corsa Coal”), Wilson Creek Energy, LLC (“Wilson Creek”), and PBS Coals, Inc. (“PBS Coals”) (collectively, the “Coal Defendants”) seeking to preclude the testimony of Larry McDowell and Ronald Lewis, two experts designated by Plaintiffs, CDS Family Trust, LLC's and the Carl DelSignore Family Trust's (collectively, the “Plaintiffs”) pursuant to Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence and Daubert v. Merrell Dowell Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993). The Court has also reviewed Plaintiffs' Opposition (ECF No. 154) and the Coal Defendants' Reply (ECF No. 161). The Court finds that no hearing is necessary.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny both motions at this time without prejudice. At trial, subject to the Court's guidance below, the Coal Defendants are free to renew challenges to credentials during the voir dire of the witness, including a challenge that the witnesses' training and experience are insufficient to allow him to opine as to some or all of the areas of expected testimony. Additionally, the Coal Defendants are free to move to strike some or all of either expert's opinion testimony at the conclusion of their cross examination of the expert based on challenges to the reliability of the testimony or the sufficiency of its factual basis.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 provides for:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

         As noted by Plaintiffs, Rule 702 was intended to liberalize the admission of relevant expert evidence and favors admissibility if the testimony will assist the trier of fact. See Westberry v. Gislaved Gummi AB, 178 F.3d 257, 261 (4th Cir. 1999); Mack v. Amerisourcebergen Drug Coro., 671 F.Supp.2d 706, 709 (D. Md. 2009). Moreover, a Daubert challenge focuses on whether the prerequisites to admissibility contained in Rule 702 are met, and “is not a tool to challenge the persuasive value of an expert's conclusions . . . [or] intended to take the place of vigorous cross-examination or intrude on the province of the jury.” See Ruark v. BMW of North Am., LLC, No. ELH-09-2738, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11969 *19 (D. Md., Jan. 30, 2014). “In other words, the Supreme Court did not intend the gatekeeper role to ‘ supplant the adversary system or the role of the [factfinder]: [v]igorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence, and careful instruction on the burden of proof are the traditional and appropriate means of attacking shaky but admissible evidence.'” See Id. at *11 (quoting Allison v. McGhan Medical Coro., 184 F.3d 1300, 1311-12 (11th Cir. 1999)).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Coal Seam Opinions

         The Coal Defendants first attack Mr. McDowell's credentials to opine as to the identification of various coal seams within the disputed area, primarily by arguing that his mining experience is insufficient in duration and too remote in time to allow him to opine as to which coal seam was mined in this case. (ECF No. 161 at pp. 2-3). According to the Coal Defendants, Mr. McDowell's 8 years of work for a mining company approximately 30 years ago renders him unqualified. To say the least, that is not facially apparent to the Court. There is no evidence before the Court that coal seam identification has significantly evolved since 1988, nor that eight years is an insufficient length of time to develop such expertise. The Court also observes that based on its reading of Mr. McDowell's reports and deposition ...


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