Court: United States District Court for the District of Nebraska
Case Name: Reynolds v. Western Sugar Coop.
Citation: 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 140833
The plaintiff, Trenton Reynolds, suffered severe burn injuries in an industrial accident at the Western Sugar Refinery. The defendant agreed to the liability but the dispute was with respect to nature and amount of the damages to which the plaintiff was entitled. The defendant hired an expert to opine about the extent of economic damages suffered by the plaintiff.
The expert had 25+ years of experience in the field of economics and held both a bachelor’s degree and an MBA in economics and finance. The plaintiff did not challenge the expert’s education, training, or expertise with respect to economics. However, the plaintiff contested the expert with respect to his opinions regarding vocational rehabilitation and life care planning. According to the plaintiff, the expert’s opinions regarding vocational future and life care needs were not reliable because they were beyond his expertise and, therefore, irrelevant.
The plaintiff challenged the expert’s opinion that Reynolds should move from his home in Wyoming to Colorado to take advantage of a higher minimum wage rate. The plaintiff also sought to exclude the expert’s opinion that the plaintiff could achieve an advanced degree in the field of mechanical engineering or related fields as it was predicated on the assumption that Reynolds would have achieved such a degree even if he had not been injured.
The defendant argued that the expert never dictated that the plaintiff should move nor where he should live. The defendant further claimed that the expert’s opinion with respect to going for an additional education was not an improper or irrelevant opinion, as it is not beyond the expertise and experience of an economist to provide opinions on alternative-learning scenarios.
The court noted that the plaintiff’s assertion that the expert had offered an irrelevant and “improper vocational rehabilitation opinion” was not persuasive.
After examining and analyzing the case details, the court concluded that it could not agree with the plaintiff’s claim that the expert’s opinion was not reasonably probable. The expert’s opinions based on the plaintiff’s vocational future were not so improper, irrelevant, or misleading as to require exclusion at this stage. Thus, the expert’s testimony was deemed admissible.