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Quicksilver Air Inc. v. Helicopter Engine Repair Overhaul Services

United States District Court, C.D. California

October 16, 2014

Quicksilver Air Inc., et al.
v.
Helicopter Engine Repair Overhaul Services, et al.

CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

GARY ALLEN FEESS, District Judge.

Proceedings: (In Chambers) ORDER RE: MOTION TO STRIKE EXPERT DESIGNATIONS & MOTION TO REVISE SCHEDULING ORDER

I.

INTRODUCTION

This action arises out of a helicopter crash that occurred in Idaho on January 8, 2010. The helicopter pilot, his wife, and Quicksilver Air, Inc. ("Quicksilver"), the business that owns the helicopter, filed suit against Helicopter Engine Repair Overhaul Services, Inc. ("HEROS"), MPB Corporation, and Timken Alcor Aerospace Technologies Inc. (together, "MPB/Timken"), and Rolls Royce Corporation. (Docket No. 1 [Compl.].) All claims have been resolved against all defendants with the exception of those brought against HEROS.

Plaintiffs' remaining claims are essentially this: HEROS performed maintenance work on the helicopter's compressor that failed due to a fracture of its No. 2 bearing and Plaintiffs contend this bearing fractured because a fastener, a spanner nut, was not properly "staked" during the maintenance work. (Compl. ¶¶ 5, 24, 30.) That the bearing fractured and caused the crash is beyond dispute; however why it fractured is the subject of intense debate causing the parties each to retain multiple expert witnesses. Earlier in this action MPB/Timken retained two experts regarding this central issue; to avoid duplication of effort and expense, HEROS relied on those experts whose opinions reflected its position regarding the cause of the fracture that led to the crash. Now that MPB/Timken has settled out, HEROS finds itself in a precarious position because HEROS had not expressly designated MPB/Timken's experts' under Rule 26. Without their testimony, HEROS' defense would be fatally incomplete.

HEROS now moves to revise the scheduling order so that it may designate and offer the testimony of the experts previously designated by its co-defendant. Plaintiffs counterattack and move to strike the expert designations of HEROS' witnesses: Claxton, Maxfield, Heros K. Kajberouni ("Kajberouni") and metallurgist Adam Haskins ("Haskins"). (Docket No. 153-3 [Plaintiffs' Mot. to Strike ("Plaintiffs' Mem.")] at 1-2.) Plaintiffs principally argue that HEROS' expert disclosures and reports insufficiently assert adequate facts and opinions. (Id.)

As discussed in greater detail below, the Court concludes that Kajberouni's disclosure and the reports of Haskins, Claxton and Maxfield satisfy Rule 26(a)(2) and therefore DENIES Plaintiff's Motion to Strike. The Court also finds that HEROS has satisfied its burden of demonstrating good cause such that revising the scheduling order is appropriate. Therefore, HEROS' Motion to Revise the Scheduling Order is GRANTED; however, in light of potential prejudice resulting from Claxton and/or Maxfield's testimony, the Court also CONTINUES the discovery deadline for the following limited purposes: (1) to permit Plaintiffs' retention of rebuttal expert testimony rebutting Claxton and/or Maxfield's testimony; (2) to permit HEROS' deposition of any such rebutting experts; and (3) to permit Plaintiffs' deposition of Claxton and/or Maxfield. The new deadline is to be determined by the Parties consistent with the directions set forth below.

II.

BACKGROUND

On January 8, 2010, a helicopter crashed in Idaho. (Compl. at 3, ¶ 1.) Plaintiffs filed suit against a number of defendants, all but one of which has settled out, HEROS. (See Compl.; Docket No. 163 [9/22/14 Order re: Good Faith Settlement].) The crash was caused by a bearing fracture. (Compl. at 7, ¶ 26.) The reason for the bearing fracture is the subject of this case: Plaintiffs contend it was HEROS fault, while HEROS contends they are not to blame. Both sides have retained experts to offer testimony regarding the possible causes of the bearing fracture.

HEROS timely designated experts Kajberouni and Haskins on or before July 29, 2014, the expert designation deadline. (Docket No. 155-2 [Decl. of Eric A. Amador ("Amador Decl.")] ¶ 3.) Before their departure from this action, MPB/Timken retained Dr. Raymond J. Claxton ("Claxton"), a metallurgist expert, and David Maxfield ("Maxfield"), an engineering expert. (Docket No. 153-2 [Decl. of Michael J. Terhar ("Terhar Decl.")] at Ex. 4 [MPB/Timken Expert Disclosure] at 2.) HEROS asserts that they "had planned to rely at trial to a significant extent upon the opinions of Timken's Experts in explaining why the Bearing had failed." (Amador Decl. ¶ 6.) HEROS also contends that MPB/Timken had "expended over $100, 000 in fees to compensate the [e]xperts for their work, and HEROS could not have afforded to pay this amount." (Id. ¶ 3.)

HEROS first learned of fellow defendant MPB/Timken's intent to depart this suit on August 8, 2014, after the July 29, 2014 expert disclosure deadline. (Id. ¶ 3-4.) Over the course of the next few weeks, HEROS' counsel reached out to both MPB/Timken's counsel and Plaintiffs' counsel to request approval to use both Claxton and Maxfield as principal expert witnesses. (Id. ¶¶ 7-9.) Plaintiffs declined the request. (Id. ¶ 12.) Fast approaching the August 28, 2014 deadline for rebuttal expert disclosure, HEROS retained Claxton and Maxfield as rebuttal experts, and timely disclosed their rebuttal reports on August 28, 2014. (Id. ¶ 10). HEROS now urges the Court to revise the scheduling order so that HEROS may designate Claxton and Maxfield as principal expert witnesses as well as rebuttal experts. (Docket No. 155-1 [HEROS Mot. to Revise the Scheduling Order ("HEROS Mem.")] at 1.)

At the same time, Plaintiffs move to strike the expert designations of Claxton, Maxfield, Kajberouni and Haskins. (Docket No. 153-3 [Plaintiffs' Mem.] at 1-2.) Plaintiffs contend that Kajberouni is not qualified to testify as an expert and fails to allege the bases and facts for his opinion. (Plaintiffs' Mem. at 1.) Additionally, Plaintiffs contend that Haskins "did not offer any opinions... or explain the reasons for any opinions." (Id.) Plaintiffs also take issue with Claxton and Maxfield's rebuttal reports. They argue Claxton's rebuttal report "renders some opinions without stating the facts relied on and then repeats opinions that he rendered in his initial report when he was named as an expert witness... on behalf of Timken/MPB." (Id. at 1-2.) Furthermore, because Haskins is also a metallurgist, they argue that Claxton's testimony would be unnecessarily duplicative. (Docket No. 164 [Plaintiffs' Opp. to HEROS Mot. to Revise the Scheduling Order ("Plaintiffs' Opp.")] at 9.) Finally, they contend that though Maxfield's report is proper rebuttal, it should be limited to that and "HEROS should be precluded from using the initial report opinions rendered by Mr. Maxfield in his initial report...." (Plaintiffs' Mem. at 2.)

II.

DISCUSSION

A. LEGAL STANDARDS

1. EXPERT DISCLOSURES AND REPORTS

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2) requires the following from parties that wish to present expert witnesses:

(A) In General. In addition to the disclosures required by Rule 26(a)(1), a party must disclose to the other parties the identity of any witness it may use at trial to present evidence ...

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