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Reynolds v. Western Sugar Cooperative

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

August 20, 2019

TRENTON REYNOLDS, Plaintiff,
v.
WESTERN SUGAR COOPERATIVE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Robert F. Rossiter, Jr. United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on plaintiff Trenton Reynolds's (“Reynolds”) Motion to Exclude Opinions (Filing No. 74) of defendant Western Sugar Cooperative's (“Western Sugar”) economist Eric C. Frye (“Frye”) pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 403 and 702, and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). Reynolds's motion is granted in part and denied in part for the reasons below.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On January 6, 2017, Reynolds was severely burned in an industrial accident at Western Sugar's refinery in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Western Sugar has conceded liability for the accident, but the parties dispute the nature and extent of Reynolds's damages, including the amount of lost earnings and the cost of medical care and other services.

         To aid its defense, Western Sugar retained Frye to provide expert opinions about Reynolds's economic damages. Frye reportedly holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from DePauw University and a Master of Business Administration in Finance and Economics from Indiana University. He has twenty-five years' experience in investment banking, business evaluation, and financial analysis and is a certified financial analyst.

         Reynolds does not challenge Frye's education, training, and expertise in the field of economics or the reliability of his economic opinions. Rather, Reynolds contends Frye offers certain opinions that “exceed the scope of his expertise and stray into the areas of vocational rehabilitation and life care planning.” Reynolds asks the Court to exclude those opinions as unsupported and irrelevant.

         Western Sugar maintains Frye's opinions are well within the scope of his experience and expertise. As Western Sugar sees it, Frye “simply applies economic principles to the facts presented to him-primarily the opinions of [Reynolds's] vocational rehabilitation and life care plan experts-in an effort to quantify [Reynolds's] economic losses.”

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         “Federal Rule of Evidence 702 governs admissibility of expert testimony” in this diversity case.[1] Lauzon v. Senco Prod., Inc., 270 F.3d 681, 686 (8th Cir. 2001); see also Bradshaw v. FFE Transp. Servs., Inc., 715 F.3d 1104, 1107 (8th Cir. 2013). Designed to liberalize the admissibility rules and relax the traditional barriers to expert testimony, see Daubert, 509 U.S. at 588, Rule 702 rule provides:

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 ...

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