Insurance Bad Faith Claims – Experts

Insurance lawyers have to know how to deal with experts in a case.  Here is a 2023 opinion from the Eastern District of Texas, Beaumont Division, that deals with an expert.  The opinion is styled, Juanita Vera v. State Auto Insurance Company and Meridian Security Insurance Company.

This is a dispute for damages alleged to have occurred from Hurricane Laura.  Vera hired an expert, Gary Sanders, to testify about causation of Vera’s damages.

The admissibility of expert evidence is a procedural issue governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and the U.S. Supreme Court, Daubert decision.  Federal Rule of Evidence 702 sets forth the requirements that must be satisfied to enable a witness designated as an expert to testify to his or her opinions.  An expert may testify in the form of an opinion if: (1) 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; (2) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data; (3) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and (4) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

The following requirements must be met to admit expert testimony: (1) the expert is qualified; (2) the evidence is relevant to an issue in the case; and (3) the testimony is reliable.

In deciding whether to admit or exclude expert testimony, the Supreme Court has offered a non-exclusive list of factors for courts to use in evaluating the validity or reliability of expert
testimony: (1) whether the expert’s theory or technique can be or has been tested; (2) whether the theory or technique has been subjected to peer review and publication; (3) the known or potential rate of error of the challenged method; and (4) whether the theory or technique is generally accepted in the relevant scientific community.  These factors are not necessarily limited to scientific evidence and may be applicable to testimony offered by non-scientific experts, depending on the circumstances of the case.

When evaluating Daubert challenges, courts focus “on the experts’ principles and methodology, not on the conclusions that the experts generate.”  A trial court, therefore, has wide latitude in deciding whether to exclude an expert’s testimony.  The rejection of expert testimony is the exception rather than the rule, as the court’s gatekeeper role is not intended to serve as a replacement for the adversary system.

With these principles in mind the Court looked at the facts in this case and the experts’ opinion and how they were formed.  The Court ultimately ruled that Vera’s expert would not be allowed to testify because he did not satisfy the standards set forth above.

When using an expert, is is vital to make sure the expert can satisfy the standards set forth above.

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