Spaid v. Cheramie Marine L.L.C., No. 2:2016cv14169 - Document 20 (E.D. La. 2017)

Court Description: ORDER AND REASONS granting 18 Motion to Exclude the expert testimony and report of Robert Borison. Signed by Judge Sarah S. Vance on 6/22/2017. (cg)
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Spaid v. Cheramie Marine L.L.C. Doc. 20 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA FREDERICK O. SPAID, II VERSUS CIVIL ACTION NO. 16-14169 CHERAMIE MARINE, LLC SECTION “R” (2) ORD ER AN D REASON S Before the Court is defendant Cheram ie Marine’s m otion to exclude the expert testim ony and report of Robert Borison. 1 For the following reasons, the Court grants the m otion. I. BACKGROU N D This case arises out of an accident on defendant’s vessel, the M/ V J AN MARIE. 2 Plaintiff alleges that he was em ployed by defendant aboard the M/ V J AN MARIE when he suffered injuries to his leg and other parts of his body after falling into an open hatch on the vessel. 3 On August 26, 20 16, plaintiff filed a seam an’s complaint for dam ages against defendant. 4 Plaintiff 1 2 3 4 R. Doc. 18. R. Doc. 1 at 2. Id.; R. Doc. 19 at 2. R. Doc. 1 at 1. alleges that defendant failed to provide a reasonably safe place to work, failed to properly train and supervise plaintiff, failed to take precautions for the safety of employees, and engaged in other acts of negligence. 5 Plaintiff proposes to offer the expert testim ony and report of Robert Borison, a m arine safety expert. 6 In his report, Borison concludes that the m aster of the M/ V J AN MARIE failed to properly guard an open hole in a known passageway and failed to barricade the open hole to protect crewmem bers. 7 Borison intends to address these two issues in his testim ony. 8 Defendant now m oves to exclude Borison’s expert testim ony and report on the grounds that Borison’s opinions are within the dom ain of com m on sense and will not assist the trier of fact. 9 II. LEGAL STAN D ARD The adm issibility of expert testim ony is governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 70 2, which provides that a qualified expert m ay testify if, am ong other conditions, “the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to 5 6 7 8 9 Id. at 2. R. Doc. 14 at 3, R. Doc. 18-2. R. Doc. 18-2 at 5-6. R. Doc. 19 at 7. R. Doc. 18-1 at 1-3. 2 determ ine a fact in issue.” Fed. R. Evid. 70 2(a); see also Bocanegra v. Vicm ar Services, Inc., 320 F.3d 581, 584 (5th Cir. 20 0 3) (“[E]xpert testim ony m ust be relevant . . . in the sense that the expert’s proposed opinion would assist the trier of fact to understand or determ ine a fact in issue.”). The Fifth Circuit has recognized that expert testim ony is unnecessary if the court finds that “the jury could adeptly assess [the] situation using only their com m on experience and knowledge.” Peters v. Five Star Marine Serv., 898 F.2d 448, 450 (5th Cir. 1990 ). In other words, the Court m ust insist “that a proffered expert bring to the jury m ore than the lawyers can offer in argument.” In re Air Crash Disaster at N ew Orleans, Louisiana, 795 F.2d 1230 , 1233 (5th Cir. 1986). III. D ISCU SSION Borison is a m arine safety expert and plaintiff argues that his opinions will help the jury understand m aritime industry standards, the role of each of the actors involved in this incident, and other m arine safety issues that are outside the com m on experience of the average layperson. 10 Defendant does 10 R. Doc. 19 at 7. 3 not challenge Borison’s credentials. 11 Instead, defendant argues that Borison’s opinions are not based on scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge and will not assist the trier of fact in understanding the evidence or determ ining a fact in issue. 12 The issues addressed in Borison’s proffered testim ony and report are within the com m on experience and understanding of jurors. In his report, Borison finds that an open hole existed in a passageway on the M/ V J AN MARIE, the hole was created because a hatch cover was rem oved, the hole was unguarded, and the com pany did not barricade open holes or install warning tape to alert crewm em bers of the hazard. 13 Based on these findings, Borison concludes that the m aster of the vessel failed to properly guard the open hole and failed to provide a safe work environm ent. 14 The report does not discuss maritim e industry safety standards. 15 No expertise was required or used to render these opinions. The jury is capable of evaluating the dangers posed by an open hole in a vessel passageway without expert testim ony. Under sim ilar facts, the Fifth Circuit found that a jury could use their com m on experience and knowledge to 11 12 13 14 15 R. Doc. 18-1. Id. at 1. R. Doc. 18-2 at 6. Id. Id. 4 assess whether it was reasonable for the plaintiff’s employer to instruct em ployees to m ove equipment on deck during heavy seas. Peters, 898 F.2d at 450 . The court of appeals further concluded that the jury was capable of assessing without expert assistance whether cargo was im properly stowed on deck and whether spilled diesel fuel m ade the deck of the ship slippery. Id; see also Oatis v. Diam ond Offshore Mgm t. Co., No. 0 9-3267, 20 10 WL 936449, at *2 (E.D. La. Mar. 12, 20 10 ) (excluding expert testim ony regarding whether violation of work safety guidelines contributed to plaintiff’s injuries); Thom as v. Global Explorer, LLC, No. 0 2-10 60 , 20 0 3 WL 943645, at *2 (E.D. La. March 3, 20 0 3) (excluding expert testim ony on whether installing a rope near a ladder on a vessel was a safety hazard). Because the Court finds that Borison’s expert testim ony and report will not assist the trier of fact, and is therefore not relevant, it need not consider the Daubert standards for the reliability of expert testim ony. See Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm aceuticals, Inc., 50 9 U.S. 579, 591-593 (1993) (expert testim ony m ust assist the trier of fact and be scientifically valid); see also Oatis, 20 10 WL 936449, at *2. 5 IV. CON CLU SION For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS defendant’s m otion to exclude Robert Borison’s expert testimony and report. 22nd New Orleans, Louisiana, this _ _ _ _ _ day of J une, 20 17. _____________________ SARAH S. VANCE UNITED STATES DISTRICT J UDGE 6