Weather Experts Investigate Extent to Which Hail Storm Damaged Property

Zach Barreto

Written by
— Updated on February 18, 2020

Weather Experts Investigate Extent to Which Hail Storm Damaged Property

Court: United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division
Jurisdiction: Federal
Case Name: Huntington Chase Condo. Ass’n v. Mid-Century Ins. Co.
Citation: 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54880

Facts

The plaintiff, a condominium building management company, alleged an insurance claim breach by the defendant, the insurer of the plaintiff’s building. The plaintiff claims that hail storms had caused direct property damage to their building. The defendant argued that hail storms had not occurred on the dates that the plaintiff alleged. Rather, the defendant claimed that the hail storms in question had occurred prior to when the insurance policy came into effect. Both parties relied on weather expert witnesses to testify on their behalf. In turn, both challenged each other’s weather expert testimony.

The Weather Expert Witnesses

The plaintiff’s weather expert witness was a meteorologist who specialized in hurricane and synoptic meteorology, site-specific forecasts, forensic meteorology, weather software design, and on-site weather support. He had over 20 years of experience working as a meteorologist for the United States Air Force. The weather expert had worked as a meteorology instructor for the last four years and performed numerous forensic meteorological evaluations for site-specific natural disasters. He also previously provided weather forecasting services to the White House, NASA, and the Department of Defense’s Unarmed Aerial Vehicle and Chemical Warfare programs, among others.

The defendant’s weather expert was the owner and director of AtmoSci Inc., a meteorology firm that provides professional weather and climate consultation services. He completed his Ph.D. in meteorology from the University of Reading after obtaining his B.S. degree magna cum laude in atmospheric sciences from Creighton University. He was a meteorologist who specialized in providing data analysis, quantitative analysis, data visualization, and consulting services in the subject of atmospheric sciences.

Discussion

The court noted that both weather experts were sufficiently qualified as meteorologists to proffer their opinion about the specific kind of meteorological analysis discussed in the case. The court further explained that the defendant’s weather expert’s opinion had used reliable methodology to form his opinion by basing his report on the Federal Meteorological Handbook No. 11. This handbook is published by the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research, and provides “standards and procedures to facilitate the efficient collection, sharing, and use of meteorological information by agencies of the federal government and private industry,” along with using storm data and radar data to isolate and identify potential hail events in the vicinity. The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the methodology was not sufficiently reliable. The court also noted that the plaintiff had failed to show a better method of performing meteorological analysis than the one employed by the defendant’s weather expert.

In regards to the plaintiff’s weather expert witness, the court explained that he had reconstructed forensic meteorology of past events in a way very similar to what was used by the defendant’s expert. Specifically, the plaintiff’s expert used NEXRAD data, among other sources, to form his opinions and, thus, his methodology was similarly reliable. According to the court, the defendant’s objection that the plaintiff’s expert had extrapolated the properties of hail that hit the property was a challenge to the strength of his conclusion and not its admissibility.

Held

The motions filed by the plaintiff and defendant to exclude the testimony of each other’s weather experts were denied.

 

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