Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Abuse of Discretion & Experts — That Court 1 Is Affirmed in Admitting Certain Expert Testimony as Helpful to the Jury Does Not Mean that Court 2 Erred in Excluding Essentially the Same Testimony as Unnecessary to Assist Another Jury

From North American Specialty Ins. Co. v. Britt Paulk Ins. Agency, Inc., 579 F.3d 1106 (10th Cir. 2009):

Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S. Ct. 2786, 125 L. Ed. 2d 469 (1993), establishes a two-part test for admission of expert testimony under Federal Rule of Evidence 702. First, evidence must be reliable, and second, it must be helpful to the jury.... Relying on what we have called "the touchstone of admissibility" under Daubert, Thompson v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 34 F.3d 932, 941 (10th Cir. 1994) (quotation omitted), the district court invoked the second prong of this test to exclude Luther, concluding that the jury was perfectly capable of resolving the issues in this case without expert testimony. Notably, it also applied this conclusion evenhandedly to North American's proposed expert witness, Atkinson.

Britt Paulk contends that the jury should have been permitted to hear testimony regarding standard insurance industry practice. Such evidence, it claims, would help Britt Paulk establish that North American mishandled the McDonalds' claim, causing it to settle the bad faith lawsuit. Britt Paulk relies on Ford v. Allied Mutual Insurance Co., 72 F.3d 836 (10th Cir. 1996), for the proposition that insurance experts may testify regarding industry standards. In Ford, the district court permitted expert testimony on the issue of bad faith, overruling an objection that the expert's testimony was either legally or factually erroneous.... Britt Paulk's reliance is misplaced. First, the issue in Ford is not analogous to the present case. Second, that the district court in Ford did not abuse its discretion by allowing expert testimony by an insurance industry expert does not lend measurable support to the contrary position that the district court in this case abused its discretion by refusing to permit similar testimony. See Shook v. Bd. of County Comm'rs of County of El Paso, 543 F.3d 597, 603 (10th Cir. 2008).

The cited opinion in Shook holds that: “When applying an abuse of discretion standard of review, we necessarily recognize that there may be no single right answer to the question at hand, but a range of possible outcomes sustainable on the law and facts, and we will ‘defer to the district court's judgment so long as it falls within the realm of these rationally available choices.’”

Share this article:


Recent Posts