United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
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
ST. EVE United State E District Court Judge.
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.
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
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.
Captain Karentz’s Qualifications
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
Captain Karentz’s Expert Opinions
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).
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).
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.
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