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Whitchurch v. Canton Marine Towing Co., Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

November 28, 2017

KORI WHITCHURCH, Plaintiff,
v.
CANTON MARINE TOWING CO., INC., Defendant.

          OPINION

          TOM SCHANZLE-HASKINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Canton Marine Towing Co., Inc.'s (Canton Marine) Motion to Exclude the Expert Testimony of Dr. Rebecca Summary (d/e 34) (Motion). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Kori Whitchurch worked for Canton Marine as a deckhand in August 2016. Whitchurch alleges that he injured his shoulder while working on Canton Marine's vessel. Whitchurch brought this action for damages under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30104, and general maritime law. See Verified Complaint in Admiralty (d/e 1).

         Whitchurch disclosed in discovery the expert opinions of Dr. Rebecca Summary, Ph.D. Dr. Summary is an economist. Dr. Summary performed a present value study of Whitchurch's lost earning potential as a result of his injuries. Motion, attached Exhibit A, Expert Report of Dr. Summary (Report). Whitchurch was 37 years old at the time of the Accident. Dr. Summary assumed Whitchurch could earn his current wages at the time of the Accident for the next 30 years until he was 67 years old. Dr. Summary assumed that at the time of the Accident, Whitchurch worked a 7 days on, 4 days off schedule and earned $140 per workday. Dr. Summary calculated the gross annual earnings on such a schedule to be $32, 480.00. Dr. Summary calculated the gross employer-paid fringe benefits to be $10, 151.00.

         Dr. Summary determined an appropriate discount rate by calculating the difference between the average interest rates on 3-month, 6-month, and 10-year Treasury notes and bills (5.4%) from 1976 to 2016 and the historic growth rate of earnings from the same period (3.8%) to reach a discount rate of 1.6%. Dr. Summary multiplied the annual gross salary times the number of years and months from the time of her report, June 30, 2017, until Whitchurch would become 67 years old, and then divided by the discount rate of 1.6 to calculate a present value of lost future earning capacity to be $609, 607.00. Dr. Summary performed a similar calculation to estimate the lost fringe benefits to be $213, 413.00.

         Dr. Summary used federal and state tax tables to calculate Whitchurch's net after-tax income to be $28, 996.00. Dr. Summary calculated the amount of Whitchurch's after-tax income and fringe benefits lost from the date of the Accident until June 30, 2017 to be $33, 331.00.

         Canton Marine moves to bar her opinions as inadmissible under the principles announced in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, (1993), and codified in Federal Rule of Evidence 702.

         ANALYSIS

         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 ...

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