Maddox v. Rockin D Marine Services, LLC et al, No. 2:2015cv06985 - Document 30 (E.D. La. 2017)

Court Description: ORDER & REASONS granting 24 Motion to Exclude the proposed testimony of plaintiff's safety expert, Don (D.J.) Green. Signed by Judge Sarah S. Vance on 1/3/2017. (mmm)
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Maddox v. Rockin D Marine Services, LLC et al Doc. 30 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA DENNIE MADDOX CIVIL ACTION VERSUS NO. 15-6985 ROCKIN D MARINE SERVICES, LLC AND ROCKIN D OFFSHORE, LLC SECTION “R” (2) ORD ER AN D REASON S Defendants, Rockin D Marine Services, LLC and Rockin D Offshore, LLC, m ove to exclude the proposed testim ony of plaintiff’s safety expert, Don (D.J .) Green. Because Green’s testim ony does not assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or determ ine a fact in issue, the Court excludes it. 1 I. Factu al Backgro u n d . Plaintiff, Dennie Maddox, was injured when he and a co-worker lifted a heavy lead battery to a vessel owned by Defendants, Rockin D Marine Services, LLC and Rockin D Offshore, LLC. Plaintiff contends that the deckhand who was helping him lift the battery failed to follow his direction to set the battery down on the galley threshold and instead took the battery 1 R. Doc. 24. too quickly over the threshold and down the galley steps, which caused Plaintiff to strain his back. Plaintiff proposes to call Don Green as a marine safety expert. Green has opined that Defendants failed to provide a reasonably safe place to work or a seaworthy vessel because the deckhand failed to follow Plaintiff’s instructions and the distance between the step and the sill m ade the lifting m aneuver unsafe. Defendants now seek to exclude Green from testifying because they contend that his opinion does not aid the trier of fact to understand any scientific, technical, or m atter involving special knowledge. II. Exp e rt Te s tim o n y Mu s t As s is t th e Trie r o f Fact. Under Rule 70 2 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, 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 determ ine a fact in issue; (b) the testim ony is based on sufficient facts or data; (c) the testim ony is the product of reliable principles and m ethods; and (d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and m ethods to the facts of the case. 2 Fed. R. Evid. 70 2. Thus, for expert opinion to be adm issible, the expert m ust be qualified and his opinion m ust assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or determine a fact at issue. Expert testim ony is superfluous if the facts can be accurately and intelligently described to the jury, and the jury is as capable of comprehending them and drawing conclusions from them as purportedly specialized experts. Salem v. United States Lines Co., 370 U.S. 31, 36 (1962). Here, the issues do not require scientific, technical, or specialized knowledge. Maddox allegedly hurt his back when he was helping another crew m em ber carry a battery weighing approxim ately 120 pounds across a raised door sill. It is well within the com petence of the average juror to assess whether this was not a reasonably safe m aneuver. See Peters v. Five Star Marine Service, 898 F. 2d 448 , 449-450 (5th Cir. 1990 ); see also Alvarado v. Diam ond Offshore Mgm t. Co., No. 11-25, 20 11 WL 49480 31, at *3 (E.D. La. Oct. 18, 20 11) (excluding expert testim ony regarding task of lifting 50 to 60 pound sacks); Gay le v. Louisiana Dock Co., No. 99-3110 , 20 0 0 WL 10 59815 (E.D. La. J uly 31, 20 0 0 )(proffered expert testimony not helpful to the jury when issue is whether em ployee needed assistance to lift heavy objects high enough to clear a railing). There is nothing uniquely m aritim e or technical about the task at issue that requires expert assistance. Further, 3 a review of Green’s expert report reveals that it is bereft of the application of any scientific or technical knowledge. He opines that defendants failed to provide adequate instructions and procedures, but he does not identify what those procedures should have been. He opines that the steps were too far from the door sill, not based on any knowledge or principal of ship design or safety regulation, but because som eone testified that this was so. 2 He offers no reason based on his purported expertise why this is true. Indeed, in Plaintiff’s response, he contends that Green is not really com m enting on the ship’s design, but on the need for “better” (albeit unidentified) “procedures” for lifting 125 pound batteries. 3 For all of the foregoing reasons, Green’s proposed testim ony will not assist the trier of fact, and Defendants’ m otion to exclude it is GRANTED. 3rd New Orleans, Louisiana, this _ _ _ _ _ day of J anuary, 20 17. _____________________ SARAH S. VANCE UNITED STATES DISTRICT J UDGE 2 3 See R. Doc. 24-4 at 3. R. Doc. 25 at 7. 4