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Maggard v. Essar Global Limited

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia

April 1, 2015

SYLVAIN A. MAGGARD, ETC., Plaintiff,
v.
ESSAR GLOBAL LIMITED, ET AL., Defendants.

John R. Owen, Julie S. Palmer, and Lester C. Brock, III, Harman, Claytor, Corrigan & Wellman, Richmond, Virginia, for Plaintiff

James F. Neale and Meghan Cloud, McGuireWoods LLP, Charlottesville, Virginia, for Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

JAMES P. JONES, District Judge.

In this diversity action, the plaintiff, Sylvain A. Maggard ("Maggard"), has filed suit against the defendants, an international conglomerate and its related entities (herein collectively called "Essar"), for breach of contract regarding a fee or commission that he claims he is owed following his assistance with Essar's acquisition of a coal mining company, Trinity Coal Corporation. Essar agreed that it hired Maggard, but contends that his role was only that of a consultant. The plaintiff has disclosed that he intends to call at trial an expert witness, Michael Quillen ("Quillen"), a coal industry consultant, to testify regarding the role and compensation of merger and acquisition advisors in the coal industry. The defendants have moved to exclude Quillen from testifying on the grounds that his opinion testimony is "unreliable, unhelpful, and without foundation." (Defs.' Mot. to Exclude 1, ECF No. 143.)

The defendants' motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for decision. For the reasons that follow, I will deny the defendants' motion.

I.

The basic facts of this case have been detailed by this court in an earlier opinion denying Essar's Motion for Summary Judgment. See Maggard v. Essar Global Ltd., 16 F.Supp. 3d 676 (W.D. Va. 2014). Because I write primarily for the parties, I do not restate the basic facts of this case here.

Pursuant to the defendants' brief in support of their Motion to Exclude, the defendants contend that "Quillen's opinions should be excluded because they are not the result of a sound methodology and they will be of no assistance to the fact-finder in understanding the evidence or determining a fact genuinely at issue." (Mem. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. to Exclude 3, ECF No. 144.) Regarding the former, the defendants argue that Quillen's opinions are based on no methodology, because his opinion that the plaintiff is entitled to a fee or commission has remained unchanged "despite radically shifting factual underpinnings" from the time of his expert report to his deposition. ( Id. ) Regarding the latter, the defendants' contend that Quillen has no knowledge of the ultimate issue of whether there was an agreement between Maggard and Essar, which will be adequately addressed through the testimony of the parties and decided by the jury.

In this context, the case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), provides the basic analytical framework for determining the admissibility of expert testimony. Under Daubert, the court acts as a "gatekeeper" by ensuring "that any and all scientific testimony or evidence admitted is not only relevant, but reliable." Id. at 589. "[T]he trial judge's general gatekeeping' obligation... applies not only to testimony based on scientific' knowledge, but also to testimony based on technical' and other specialized' knowledge." Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 141 (1999). The trial court's inquiry into admissibility is "a flexible one" and the court's analysis will "depend[] on the nature of the issue, the expert's particular expertise, and the subject of his testimony." See id. at 150 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). More generally, cases after Daubert have shown that "the rejection of expert testimony is the exception rather than the rule." Fed.R.Evid. 702 advisory committee's note.

The principles of Daubert and its progeny are reflected in the Federal Rules of Evidence, which allow expert evidence under certain circumstances:

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 ...

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