Court: United States District Court for the District of Nevada
Case Name: United States v. 400 Acres of Land
Citation: 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 148130
In this case, the two parties try to agree upon compensation for a large plot of land. The plaintiff’s geology expert opines on mineral resource calculations in order to determine value. However, the defendant alleges this estimate is based on incomplete information. Further, they point out that another expert came to a totally different conclusion.
The court explains that the expert provided a report supplement when additional information became available. According to the court, this eliminates any dispute on the completeness of the expert’s sources. Additionally, the disagreement with another expert only impacted the weight, not the admissibility of the testimony.
In this eminent domain case, the United States sought to acquire 400 acres of property for military use. Here, the parties wanted to settle on the amount of just compensation based on the property’s highest and best use. The property was unique and contained mining buildings and items dating back to the mid 19th century. The government retained a geology expert witness to support its case.
The Plaintiff’s Geology Expert Witness
The plaintiff’s geology expert witness had over 40 years of experience in the field. He was a licensed professional geologist and a certified real estate appraiser. Additionally, the expert was a Bureau of Land Management certified mineral examiner. For his mineral resource calculation, the expert found that there were 352,400 tons of estimated resources and 647,600 tons of inferred resources. Further, he determined that the highest and best use for the mineral interest of the property was to hold it for future exploration of mineral resources.
To arrive at a mineral resource estimate, the expert analyzed two mineral reserve estimates. In his review, the expert dismissed one of the evaluations and chose to focus on the estimate that 1,000,000 tons of ore were present in the property. The geology expert noticed that some details were lacking relating to drill holes, maps, and cross-sections. After receiving this missing information—that reinforced his opinion—the expert supplemented his report.
In response, the landowners claimed the expert’s mineral resource estimate wasn’t reliable since his data was incomplete. Further, they asserted the expert failed to analyze appropriate geological sampling. The landowners claimed this testimony was inadmissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 403 because it contradicted another government expert’s appraisal.
The court explained that the expert’s report supplement resolved any dispute about missing information. Further, the court dismissed the landowner’s argument that the expert did not analyze geological sampling. To this point, the court pointed out the expert had relied on exploratory drill hole data to estimate inferred and indicated resources. Additionally, the court noted that despite some disagreement, both government experts agreed that mineralization existed. Any difference in opinions here only affected weight, not admissibility.
The court denied the defendant’s motion to exclude the plaintiff’s geology expert witness’s testimony.
Key Takeaways for Experts
This case demonstrates the importance of citing your sources and supplementing your report if necessary. When new information became available, the expert incorporated these new findings to ensure his report remained fully accurate. For this reason, the court found no reason to exclude the testimony.