United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
STEPHAN M. VIDMAR United States Magistrate Judge
MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Auto-Owners Insurance
Company's Motion to Exclude Plaintiff's Economic
Expert, Dr. Stan Smith [Doc. 97], filed on February 13, 2017.
Briefing is complete,  [Docs. 107, 115], and oral argument was
held on June 19, 2017. The Court finds that Dr. Smith's
opinion is relevant and reliable. Defendant's concerns
about the accuracy of Dr. Smith's factual presumptions
(e.g., that Plaintiff is completely unable to perform any of
his past work or the particular percentage of alleged loss of
ability to perform housekeeping services) go to the weight
rather that the admissibility of the testimony.
Defendant's motion will be denied, except as to one
point. Although Dr. Smith may offer testimony about hedonic
damages in general, he may not offer an opinion on the
quantification of such damages.
Melvin Smith was traveling in an automobile insured by
Defendant Auto-Owners' Insurance Company
(“AOI”) when it was struck from behind by a
vehicle driven by a State Farm insured. State Farm's
driver was at fault for the accident. State Farm adjusted the
claim and ultimately contributed its $100, 000 policy limits
to satisfy the claims of the various injured parties,
including Plaintiff. As a result of the accident, Plaintiff
received a payment of $26, 731.10 from State Farm and an
additional $5, 000 medical bill payment from Defendant.
Plaintiff contends, however, that his damages exceed the
combined amounts he received from State Farm and Defendant
and that he is entitled to additional benefits under the
underinsured motorist policy with Defendant. Plaintiff
initiated this lawsuit, claiming, among other things, that
Defendant's failure to pay him the additional benefits
constitutes a breach of the insurance contract. [Doc. 1-1].
moves to exclude the testimony of Plaintiff's expert
economist, Dr. Smith. [Doc. 97]. Defendant does not challenge
Dr. Smith's qualifications or his methodology. Instead,
Defendant urges that some of Dr. Smith's factual
presumptions are inaccurate or unsupported. For example,
Defendant strenuously challenges Dr. Smith's presumptions
that Plaintiff cannot return to work and has a 50% loss of
ability to perform housekeeping. Defendant is free to cast
doubt on these presumptions through cross examination and
presentation of contrary evidence. However, Defendant's
concerns about Dr. Smith's factual presumptions go to the
weight of the testimony rather than its admissibility.
Further, the Court will allow Dr. Smith to opine about the
value of Plaintiff's alleged loss of earning capacity.
Lastly, although Dr. Smith may testify about hedonic damages
in general, he may not give an opinion about the value (i.e.,
a specific dollar amount or even a range) of such damages.
Smith may testify regarding the value of Plaintiff's
alleged loss of earning capacity.
demonstrating that an expert's testimony is reliable, a
“plaintiff need not prove that the expert is
undisputably correct or that the expert's theory is
generally accepted in the scientific community.”
Bitler v. A.O. Smith Corp., 400 F.3d 1227, 1233
(10th Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted).
“Instead, [a] plaintiff must show that the method
employed by the expert in reaching the conclusion is
scientifically sound and that the opinion is based on facts
which sufficiently satisfy Rule 702's reliability
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 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
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and
methods to the ...