Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Complaint of Ingram Barge Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

August 16, 2016

IN THE MATTER OF THE COMPLAINT OF INGRAM BARGE COMPANY AS OWNER OF THE M/V DALE A. HELLER AND THE IB9525, IN025300, IN085089, IN095041, IN096081, IN107057, AND IN117513, PETITIONING FOR EXONERATION FROM OR LIMITATION OF LIABILITY, IN THE MATTER OF AMERICAN COMMERCIAL LINES, LLC, AS OWNER AND INLAND MARINE SERVICE, INC. AS OWNER PRO HAC VICE OF THE M/V LOYD MURPHY FOR EXONERATION FROM OR LIMITATION OF LIABILITY.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMY J. ST. EVE United State E District Court Judge.

         On May 6, 2016, Petitioner Ingram Barge Company (“Ingram”), as owner of the M/V Dale A. Heller (“Dale Heller”), moved to exclude the testimony of the Marseilles Elementary School District’s (“MESD”) expert, Captain Christopher Karentz, pursuant to the Federal Rules of Evidence and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993). (R.770). For the following reasons, the Court, in its discretion, grants in part and denies in part Ingram’s motion.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Factual Background

         This admiralty case arises from the Dale Heller’s unsuccessful attempt to navigate its fourteen-barge tow past a federal dam located near the town of Marseilles, Illinois during a high- water situation on April 18, 2013. Other maritime vessels agreed to assist the Dale Heller in this navigation attempt, including: (1) the M/V Loyd Murphy (“Loyd Murphy”), operated by Inland Marine Service, Inc. (“IMS”) and owned by American Commercial Lines, LLC; (2) the M/V City of Ottawa, a United States Army of Engineers (“Corps”) vessel; and (3) the M/V Creve Coeur, another Corps vessel. While traversing Illinois River Mile 247.0 near the Marseilles Dam, the Dale Heller’s tow broke apart, and seven of its barges either allided with the dam or sank upriver from it. Subsequent to this incident, the river waters overtopped the surrounding earthen dike and flowed into the town of Marseilles, causing substantial damage to real and personal property.

         Ingram and IMS both filed a complaint in admiralty for exoneration from or limitation of liability in connection with this April 18, 2013 incident. (R.1; R.1, 13-cv-04292). The United States filed a claim in both limitation actions for damages to the Marseilles Dam and related structures. (R.129, R.374). Individual claimants also filed general maritime claims against Ingram, IMS, and the United States for their resulting property damage.

         II. Captain Karentz’s Qualifications

         Captain Karentz has a Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Transportation from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. He holds an Unlimited Ships Masters License from the United States Coast Guard, along with several other maritime certifications. In addition to education and professional accreditation, Captain Karentz has substantial experience navigating vessels, including freight vessels, oil tankers, research vessels, cargo vessels, and swath ships, in both oceanic and inland waters. Captain Karentz also gained managerial and supervisory experience at Florida Marine Towing and Florida Fuels Incorporated, among others. For the last 13 years, Captain Karentz has worked and testified as an expert witness in maritime vessel operations, voyage planning, safety management, and regulatory compliance. (R.770-3, Karentz CV at 1-4; R.770-2, Karentz Dep. Tr. at 63).

         III. Captain Karentz’s Expert Opinions

         In his report dated March 4, 2016, Captain Karentz offers several opinions about the events of April 17-18, 2013, leading up to the dam allision. (R.770-4, Karentz Rep.). In particular, Captain Karentz opines on (i) Ingram’s failure to act on available knowledge regarding the hazards of mooring at Ballards Island and approaching the Marseilles Dam in high waters, and (ii) Ingram’s failure to follow best practices and to “implement a suitable action plan” given the situation at hand. (Id. at 10-15). In addition, Captain Karentz discusses the Ingram Safety and Policy Manual for Navigation (the “Manual”) and concludes that it fails to provide contingency plan guidance with “baseline operating limits for operating in extraordinary conditions, such as high winds or high flood stages.” (Id. at 13).

         DAUBERT STANDARD

         “A district court’s decision to exclude expert testimony is governed by Federal Rules of Evidence 702 and 703, as construed by the Supreme Court in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993).” Brown v. Burlington No. Santa Fe Ry. Co., 765 F.3d 765, 771 (7th Cir. 2014). “The rubric for evaluating the admissibility of expert evidence considers whether the expert was qualified, whether his methodology was scientifically reliable, and whether the testimony would have assisted the trier of fact in understanding the evidence or in determining the fact in issue.” Hartman v. EBSCO Indus., Inc., 758 F.3d 810, 817 (7th Cir. 2014); see also Higgins v. Koch Dev. Corp., 794 F.3d 697, 704 (7th Cir. 2015) (“Rule 702 and Daubert require the district court to determine whether proposed expert testimony is both relevant and reliable”). Although the Seventh Circuit reviews “the district court’s application of Daubert [] de novo, ” if “the court adhered to the Daubert framework, then its decision on admissibility is reviewed for abuse of discretion.” Estate of Stuller v. United States, 811 F.3d 890, 895 (7th Cir. 2016).

         A district court’s evaluation of expert testimony under Daubert does not “take the place of the jury to decide ultimate issues of credibility and accuracy.” Lapsley v. Xtek, Inc., 689 F.3d 802, 805 (7th Cir. 2012); see also Ortiz v. City of Chicago, 656 F.3d 523, 536 (7th Cir. 2011) (“The admissibility determination is not intended to supplant the adversarial process, and so even ‘shaky’ testimony may be admissible”). Once it is determined that “the proposed expert testimony meets the Daubert threshold of relevance and reliability, the accuracy of the actual evidence is to be tested before the jury with the familiar tools of ‘vigorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence, and careful instruction on the burden of proof.’” Lapsley, 689 F.3d at 805 (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 596). A district court’s inquiry under Daubert is a flexible one and district courts have wide latitude in performing this gate-keeping function. See Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 141, 119 S.Ct. 1167, 143 L.Ed.2d 238 (1999); Hartman, 758 F.3d at 818. “‘[T]he key to the gate is not the ultimate correctness of the expert’s conclusions, ’” rather, “‘it is the soundness and care with which the expert arrived at her opinion[.]’” C.W. ex rel. Wood v. Textron, Inc., 807 F.3d 827, 834 (7th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). The “proponent of the expert bears the burden of demonstrating that the expert’s testimony would satisfy the Daubert standard” by a preponderance of the evidence. Lewis v. Citgo Petroleum Corp., 561 F.3d 698, 705 (7th Cir. 2009).

         The Seventh Circuit has clarified that Daubert’s reliability and relevancy requirements “continue to apply in a bench trial.” Metavante Corp. v. Emigrant Sav. Bank, 619 F.3d 748, 760 (7th Cir. 2010). “However, the usual concerns of the rule-keeping unreliable expert testimony from the jury-are not present in such a setting[.]” Id. As such, the Court may defer making reliability determinations until after the evidence is presented. Id.; see also Estate of Stuller, 811 F.3d at 895 n.3 (“Where the factfinder and the gatekeeper are the same, the court does not err in admitting the evidence subject to the ability later to exclude it or disregard it if it turns out not to meet the standard of reliability established by Rule 702”); In re Salem, 465 F.3d 767, 777 (7th Cir. 2006) (“the court can hear the evidence and make its reliability determination during, rather than in advance of, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.