Expert And Homeowners Claim

When experts are needed in a homeowners claim, it is good to see how courts look at experts.  The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division, issued an opinion on July 1, 2022, that deals with experts.  The opinion is styled, FB & SB Leasing, LLC vs. Chubb Lloyds Insurance Company of Texas.

Chubb filed a motion to exclude the testimony of Michael B. Couch, who had been named by the Plaintiff as an expert.  The court denied Chubbs motion and stated as follows.

In this firstparty insurance dispute involving a property experiencing plumbing problems
and foundation issues, Chubb presents two reliability arguments to support excluding the opinion testimony of Plaintiff FB &SB Leasing’s sole causation expert, Michael B. CouchChubb urges first that Couch’s report provides insufficient information about his methodology. Second, Chubb argues Couch relied on mistaken or incorrect underlying data when opining that there were multiple leaks at the property.  There’s no dispute that Couch’s testimony, if reliable, would be relevant.  Chubb also doesn’t dispute Couch’s qualifications.  As argued, and on this record, Chubb’s complaints go to the eventual weight a jury might afford the testimony and are most appropriately addressed at trial via cross-examination or through introduction of competing expert testimony.

As to the first argument, there’s no dispute that Couch inspected the property on multiple
occasions and relied on a plumbing report that noted multiple breaks in plumbing lines.  Relying on this underlying data and his ample training and experience, Couch opined on the cause of thedamage to the property.  This is sufficient given the parties arguments presented here.  The second of Chubb’s arguments relies on a distinction Chubb draws between leaks and breaksin plumbing, which on this record is an issue better reserved for cross examination at trial.  Both sides experts relied on the same plumbing report that noted multiple plumbing issues.  Even Chubb’s expert appears to use the terms break and leak interchangeably in his expert report. Moreover, Chubb didn’t depose Couch, which might have provided more detail and nuance on these issues to further inform a motion to exclude.  Accordingly, Chubb’s motion is denied without prejudice and Chubb may re-urge its arguments later in the case, such as via a motion in limine or at trial.

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