United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division
AUGUSTINA C. AMALU, individually and as next kin of and Administrator of the Estate of IFEYINWA STEPHANIE AMALU, deceased, et. al. Plaintiffs,
STEVENS TRANSPORT, INC., et. al., Defendants.
ORDER AFFIRMING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S
THOMAS ANDERSON CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Stevens Transport, Inc. (“Stevens Transport”)
filed a motion to limit or exclude the testimony of
Plaintiffs' expert Roger Allen (ECF No. 440) and motion
to limit or exclude the testimony of Plaintiffs' expert
Peter Philbrick (ECF No. 444). Defendant Stevens Transport
TL, Inc. (“Stevens TL”) also filed motion to
limit or exclude the testimony of Allen (ECF No. 442) and
Philbrick (ECF No. 446). The motion was referred to the
United States Magistrate Judge for determination on January
17, 2018. (ECF No. 448.) On March 12, 2018, Magistrate Judge
Edward G. Bryant issued an order granting in part and denying
in part Defendants' motions. (ECF No. 479.) Defendants
Stevens Transport and Stevens TL filed timely objections to
the Magistrate Judge's order on March 26, 2018. (ECF Nos.
485, 486.) Plaintiffs Augustina C. Amaulu, individually and
as next kin of and administrator of the estate of Ifeyinwa
Stephanie Amalu, and Ody Udeozo and Josephine Udeozo,
individually and as next kin of and administrators of the
estate of Chinelo Udeozo, filed a response to Defendants'
objections on April 4, 2018. (ECF No. 491.) Plaintiff David
Lindsey, individually and as personal representative of the
estate of Kristi Mills, filed a response to Defendants'
objections on April 9, 2018. (ECF No. 493.) For the reasons
set forth below, the decision of the Magistrate Judge is
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), a district court shall apply a
“clearly erroneous or contrary to law” standard
of review for nondispositive preliminary matters such as
motions to strike. United States v. Curtis, 237 F.3d
598, 603 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing United States v.
Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 673 (1980)). Thus, a district
judge “shall consider” objections to a magistrate
judge's order on a nondispositive matter and “shall
modify or set aside any portion of the magistrate judge's
order found to be clearly erroneous or contrary to
law.” Bell v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters,
1997 WL 103320 *4 (6th Cir. 1997) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
72(a)). “The clearly erroneous standard applies only to
factual findings made by the Magistrate Judge, while legal
conclusions will be reviewed under the more lenient contrary
to law standard.” E.E.O.C. v. Burlington N. &
Santa Fe Ry. Co., 621 F.Supp.2d 603, 605 (W.D. Tenn.
2009) (citation omitted). Under the clearly erroneous
standard for findings of fact, the Court need only consider
whether any evidence or showing exists to support the
Magistrate Judge's finding and whether the finding was
reasonable. See Tri-Star Airlines, Inc. v. Willis Careen
Corp. of Los Angeles, 75 F.Supp.2d 835, 839 (W.D. Tenn.
1999) (citations omitted) (explaining that the clearly
erroneous “standard does not permit the reviewing court
to substitute its own conclusion for that of the magistrate
judge. Rather, the clearly erroneous standard only requires
the reviewing court to determine if there is any evidence to
support the magistrate judge's finding and that the
finding was reasonable.”) “When examining legal
conclusions under the contrary to law standard, the Court may
overturn any conclusions of law which contradict or ignore
applicable precepts of law, as found in the Constitution,
statutes, or case precedent.” Doe v. Aramark Educ.
Res., Inc., 206 F.R.D. 459, 461 (M.D. Tenn. 2002)
(citing Gandee v. Glaser, 785 F.Supp. 684, 686 (S.D.
Ohio 1992), aff'd, 19 F.3d 1432 (6th Cir. 1994).
“Rejection of expert testimony ‘is the exception,
rather than the rule.'” MAR Oil Co. v.
Korpan, 973 F.Supp.2d 775, 781 (N.D. Ohio 2013) (quoting
Fed.R.Evid. 702 Advisory Committee's Note, 2000 Amend.);
see also In re Scrap Metal Antitrust Litig., 527
F.3d 517, 530 (6th Cir. 2008) (same).
party filing the objections or appeal has the burden of
proving that the decision was clearly erroneous. See
12 Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. § 3068.2 (2d
ed.) (citing Lopez v. Metropolitan Gov't of Nashville
and Davidson Cty, 646 F.Supp.2d 891, 921 (M.D. Tenn.
Magistrate Judge included the following background summary in
his order; neither party has objected to this summary.
Plaintiffs' lawsuit stems from a multiple vehicle
accident on June 25, 2014. This accident involved a vehicle
occupied by Ifeyinwa Stephanie Amalu and Chinelo Udeozo and a
tractor-trailer driven by Tony Mills with a passenger, Kristi
Mills. All the aforementioned parties died as a result of the
accident. The parties disagree on the various roles of the
involved parties, including Defendants Stevens Transport and
Stevens TL. These disagreements include which Defendants are
motor carriers and/or brokers and how many Defendants
employed Tony Mills. Connected to these issues are various
standards in the trucking industry. To help with these
issues, Plaintiffs Lindsey, Amalu, and Hartmann have listed
Allen as a Rule 26 expert. Philbrick is the Rule 26 expert
designated by Amalu and Hartmann.
(Mag. J. Ord. at p. 2, ECF No. 479.)
do not object to the Magistrate Judge's determination
that Allen and Philbrick are prohibited from testifying as to
legal conclusions as a matter of law, including contract
interpretation, whether Tony Mills was a statutory employee,
the legal applicability of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Regulations (“FMCSRs”), and whether Defendant
Stevens Transport was a motor carrier. Defendants do object
to the Magistrate Judge's determination that Allen and
Philbrick are qualified to offer expert opinions regarding
freight brokers and motor carrier selection and to the
determination that Allen and Philbrick may render expert
opinions on the reliability and usefulness of BASIC scores.
making his decision, the Magistrate Judge analyzed the
Court's “gate-keeping role” under Daubert
v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579
(1993) (holding that Federal Rule of Evidence 702 requires
that trial courts perform a “gate-keeping role”
when considering the admissibility of expert testimony) and
determined as follows.
of Roger Allen and ...