Judge grants part of Great Lakes Dredge and Dock's motion to dismiss expert witnesses in maritime injury case

By Justin Stoltzfus | Jun 13, 2018

NEW ORLEANS – In a court order filed May 31 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk ruled on a defendant's motion to exclude two of the plaintiff's witnesses from testimony in a maritime work injury lawsuit.

In this case, the court's ruling on the use of experts involved the context of a maritime work injury on the part of the plaintiff, Earl Lawrence. The court filing did not include details about the injury. 

The defendant, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company of Louisiana (Great Lakes), is asking the court to exclude the two expert witnesses provided by the plaintiff for varying reasons, court filings said.

In ruling, the court cited Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence showing the definition of an expert witness in the court document.

The witnesses in question are an economist, Shael N. Wolfson, and a life care planner, Shelley Savant.

Wolfson is expected to offer testimony at trial as to the diminished earning capacity and associated economic impairment sustained by plaintiff, the court filing said. Great Lakes is contending that Wolfson did not calculate lost wages correctly.

“Unsurprisingly, plaintiff disagrees with defendant’s positions, arguing that the assumptions made by Wolfson are supported by the facts and law,” the court ruling said.

The plaintiff is also making a distinction between lost wages and loss of earning capacity, which shows some of the nebulous factors involving the economic basis for the legal challenge.

Citing a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal opinion, the court characterized lost wages claims under the Jones Act and maritime law as operating on a combined basis: estimating the loss of work life resulting from the injury or death, calculating the lost income stream, computing the total damage and discounting that amount to its present value.

 "Wolfson may not testify as to a lost wage calculation based solely on plaintiff’s 2013 earnings," the ruling said, addiding that "the will defer determination of whether Wolfson may testify as to his calculations of the values of plaintiff’s lost subsistence and fringe benefits until trial."

In the matter of life care planner Savant's testimony, the court dismissed the defendant's challenge since the parties were able to agree that the issue will be considered later on.

Africk ordered Great Lakes' motion granted in part, deferred in part, and dismissed without prejudice in part.

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