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Maine Windjammers, Inc. v. Sea3, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maine

November 8, 2019

SEA3, LLC, et al., Defendants


          John H. Rich III United States Magistrate Judge

         In this maritime breach of contract action, the plaintiff, Maine Windjammers (“Windjammers”), seeks to exclude certain testimony of Thomas Hill, a marine surveyor retained as an expert by defendants Sea3, LLC, Robert H. Larsen, and Stephen Taylor (together, “Sea3”). See Plaintiff's Motion in Limine To Exclude Opinions of Thomas Hill, In Part (“Motion”) (ECF No. 52). Windjammers enumerates nine opinions allegedly set forth by Mr. Hill in his report that it asks this court to exclude. See id. at 1-3. Because Windjammers relies on incorrect predicates with regard to all nine opinions, I deny the motion.

         I. Applicable Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 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 methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

Fed. R. Evid. 702.

         “In applying Rule 702, the district court serves as the gatekeeper for expert testimony by ‘ensuring that [it] . . . both rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand.'” Milward v. Rust-Oleum Corp., 820 F.3d 469, 473 (1st Cir. 2016) (quoting Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., 509 U.S. 579, 597 (1993)). “In carrying out this responsibility, the trial court must bear in mind that an expert with appropriate credentials and an appropriate foundation for the opinion at issue must be permitted to present testimony as long as the testimony has a ‘tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence.'” Pagés-Ramírez v. Ramírez-González, 605 F.3d 109, 115 (1st Cir. 2010) (quoting Fed.R.Evid. 401).[1] “A district court enjoys substantial discretion to decide whether to admit or exclude relevant expert testimony.” Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         II. Factual Background

         In the spring of 2017, Windjammers and Sea3, LLC, entered into an agreement that Sea3, LLC, would lease the S/V Halie & Matthew (the “Vessel”) with an option to purchase her. Motion at 3. The agreement was memorialized in the Vessel Lease and Option to Purchase (the “Contract”), signed by representatives of both parties on March 17, 2017. Amended Complaint (ECF No. 13) ¶ 7; Contract, Exh. A (ECF No. 13-1) thereto.

         Sea3 took possession of the Vessel in March 2017 and made significant changes to her. Amended Complaint ¶¶ 12-13. Windjammers alleges that Sea3 abandoned the Vessel in disrepair in September 2017, after failing to complete required repairs and improvements and cure a payment default. Id. ¶¶ 14-17. Sea3, on the other hand, contends that the Vessel was delivered to Sea3 in an unseaworthy state, causing Sea3 to incur costs of improvements and repairs. Defendants/Counterclaim Plaintiffs Sea 3, LLC's, Robert H. Larsen, Jr.'s, and Stephen Taylor's Answer, Affirmative Defenses and Amended Counterclaims (“Answer”) (ECF No. 38) ¶ 32; Amended Counterclaims, commencing at page 13 of Answer, ¶¶ 40-41. Windjammers sues Sea3 for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, unjust enrichment, and damage to the Vessel during custody. Amended Complaint ¶¶ 21-53. Sea3, LLC, brings a counterclaim against Windjammers for misrepresentation, fraud in the inducement, breach of contract, breach of the implied and express warranties of seaworthiness, quantum meruit, and unjust enrichment. Amended Counterclaims ¶¶ 25-59; Stipulation of Dismissal as to Counts VI and VII of Counterclaim Plaintiff Robert Larsen's Counterclaims (ECF No. 44).

         Sea3 designated Mr. Hill as an expert in this matter. The parties agree that he is a qualified marine surveyor who may opine on “the physical aspects of a vessel, maintenance and/or repair issues of a vessel and the costs to perform work aboard a vessel.” Motion at 4; Defendants' Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion in Limine to Exclude Opinions of Thomas Hill, in Part (“Opposition) ...

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