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Ruiz v. Xpo Last Mile, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 23, 2017

FERNANDO RUIZ, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,


          Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge

         Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Exclude Plaintiff's Expert Witness (“Mot. to Exclude”), (ECF No. 310), and Plaintiffs' Reply in Opposition to the Motion to Exclude (“Opp'n”), (ECF No. 339). Having considered the Parties' arguments and the law, the Court DENIES Defendant's Motion.

         Defendant asserts several reasons why Plaintiffs' Expert Witness, Kevin Taylor, should be barred from testifying at trial, none of which are persuasive. Defendants' first argument-that the Court certified only liability, rather than liability and damages-is simply incorrect. The Court has repeatedly explained that it certified liability, and that damages naturally flow from that certification. Whether damages present an individualized inquiry is something to be addressed by damage calculations and individual claim submissions or testimony where relevant, not certification. See Jimenez v. Allstate Ins. Co., 765 F.3d 1161, 1168 (9th Cir. 2014) (“So long as the plaintiffs were harmed by the same conduct, disparities in how or by how much they were harmed d[oes] not defeat class certification.”); Butler v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 727 F.3d 796, 801 (7th Cir. 2013) (“It would drive a stake through the heart of the class action device, in cases in which damages were sought rather than an injunction or a declaratory judgment, to require that every member of the class have identical damages. If the issues of liability are genuinely common issues, and the damages of individual class members can be readily determined in individual hearings, in settlement negotiations, or by creation of subclasses, the fact that damages are not identical across all class members should not preclude class certification. Otherwise defendants would be able to escape liability for tortious harms of enormous aggregate magnitude but so widely distributed as not to be remediable in individual suits.”). Accordingly, Defendants' argument here should not bar Mr. Taylor's testimony.

         Defendants' remaining arguments focus on the standard for expert testimony as set forth in Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and interpreted by Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), and its progeny. Federal Rule of Evidence 702 provides that:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

Daubert and subsequent cases have interpreted the rule as requiring that evidence be both relevant and reliable. 509 U.S. at 589-95. “This entails a preliminary assessment of whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is scientifically valid and of whether that reasoning or methodology properly can be applied to the facts in issue.” Id. at 592-93; see also Fed. R. Evid. 703 (requiring the facts or data upon which the expert relies to be “of a type reasonably relied upon by experts in the particular field”). Ultimately, “[a] trial court has broad latitude not only in determining whether an expert's testimony is reliable, but also in deciding how to determine the testimony's reliability.” Ellis v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 657 F.3d 970, 982 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Kumho Tire, 526 U.S. at 152).

         In conducting this inquiry, Courts consider Daubert's non-exhaustive list of factors. Mukhtar v. Cal. State Univ., Hayward, 299 F.3d 1053, 1064 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 593- 94; Kumho Tire, 526 U.S. at 141), overruled on other grounds by Estate of Barabin v. AstenJohnson, Inc., 740 F.3d 457, 460 (9th Cir. 2014). This includes: “(1) whether the scientific theory or technique can be (and has been) tested, (2) whether the theory or technique has been subjected to peer review and publication, (3) whether there is a known or potential error rate, and (4) whether the theory or technique is generally accepted in the relevant scientific community.” Id.

         This inquiry is designed to be a flexible one, and “[s]haky but admissible evidence is to be attacked by cross examination, contrary evidence, and attention to the burden of proof, not exclusion.” City of Pomona v. SQM N. Am. Corp., 750 F.3d 1036, 1044 (9th Cir. 2014). “[R]ejection of expert testimony is the exception rather than the rule.” Frye v. Ayers, No. CIVS990628LKKKJM, 2009 WL 1312924, at *4 (E.D. Cal. May 12, 2009) (quoting Advisory Committee Notes to 2000 Amendments to Fed.R.Evid. 702).

         In the present case, Mr. Taylor has worked as an accountant and consultant for over twenty years and is regularly engaged by businesses and individuals to examine data for the purpose of converting, analyzing, and reporting such data. (Opp'n Ex. B, ECF No. 339-2, at 2.) Mr. Taylor is regularly engaged as an expert witness and conducts causation analyses and damage quantification analyses. (Id.) This satisfies the Court at this preliminary stage that Mr. Taylor should not be barred for lack of expert qualification.

         Further, Mr. Taylor's testimony is unquestionably relevant. In the context of a Daubert motion, relevancy is satisfied if an expert's testimony “logically advances a material aspect of the proposing party's case.” Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 43 F.3d 1311, 1315 (9th Cir. 1995). Mr. Taylor's testimony here will address the potential total damages Class Members suffered due to Defendant's various California Labor Code violations. Damages are a material aspect, and indeed ...

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