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Viking Yacht Co. v. Composites One LLC

April 27, 2009

VIKING YACHT COMPANY, A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION; AND POST MARINE CO., INC., A NEW JERSEY: CORPORATION, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COMPOSITES ONE LLC, A FOREIGN LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY; CURRAN COMPOSITES, INC., A MISSOURI CORPORATION; C TWO LLC, A FOREIGN LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY; AND TOTAL COMPOSITES, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION JOINT D/B/A/ COOK COMPOSITES AND POLYMERS, A FICTITIOUSLY NAMED DELAWARE PARTNERSHIP, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irenas, Senior District Judge

HONORABLE JOSEPH E. IRENAS

OPINION

Presently before the Court is Defendant Cook Composites and Polymers' ("CCP") Motion to Exclude the Opinions and Testimony of Plaintiffs' Damages Experts (Docket No. 161). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion will be granted.

I.

The facts of this case have been set-out in several previous opinions*fn1 and need not be fully repeated here. At issue in this Motion are the expert reports and testimony of four boat dealers: Paul Barton of Portland Boat Works, Inc., Earle Hall of Bluewater Yacht Sales, Peter Maryott of Oyster Harbors Marine, and Philip Robeson of Integrity Marine. Messrs. Barton and Robeson are dealers of new Post Marine Co., Inc. ("Post") yachts. Messrs. Hall and Maryott are dealers of new Viking Yacht Company ("Viking") yachts.

As will be discussed further infra, the boat dealers' reports are extremely similar, stating almost identical opinions relevant to the issue of damages. Plaintiffs offer the experts' reports and testimony to prove how the 953 gel coat cracking problem has, or will, affect Plaintiffs' business. Plaintiffs explain that these experts will, testify from their specialized knowledge [of the luxury yacht sales market] that the Plaintiffs must fix each boat manufactured with the 953 gel coat because of the negative impact [that the cracking problem has] on the resale or trade-in value of the boats. . . . These Viking and Post dealers will not accept in trade or give customers the full value in trade of a boat manufactured with 953 gel coat unless Viking and Post agree to fix the boats or promise to fix them if they crack in the future. If the dealers cannot provide full value, the consumers will not trade-in their boats or buy another Viking or Post boat. . . . These boat dealers, by virtue of their experience, and their personal knowledge of the industry can speak, as experts, to the probable economic decisions which will be made by prospective Viking and Post customers.

(Pls. Opp. Br. at p. 24).

Each report contains 5 to 6 numbered paragraphs, each of which is identified as a "statement of opinion." Both Post dealers' reports opine as follows:

1. It is my opinion that POST must agree to guarantee the repair of all boats built with 953 gel coat, which have cracked or which may crack.

2. No boat made with 953 Series gel coat, which has cracked, or which may crack, will be accepted by me in trade without a guarantee from POST that it [the boat] will be repaired.

(Jones Cert. Ex. 1-- Barton Report; Ex. 4-- Robeson Report). The Viking dealers' reports contain almost identical opinions, (except that "VIKING" replaces "POST"); and with respect to the first point, Hall's report adds, "VIKING has agreed to fix or reimburse me for any expenses I incur in fixing these yachts." (See Jones Cert. Ex. 2-- Hall Report; Ex. 3-- Maryott Report).

Although each report articulates the third numbered opinion somewhat differently, the basic opinion is the same: Viking and Post boats with cracked 953 gel coat are worth substantially less*fn2 than otherwise comparable boats. (See Barton, Hall, Maryott, and Robeson Reports).

Each dealers' report also states that

4. No new boat purchaser will agree to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars less in trade value and still agree to buy a new VIKING [POST].

(Hall and Maryott Reports).*fn3

The fifth opinion is almost identical in all four reports:

5. Even boats made with 953 gel coat which have not cracked, have a significantly lower trade-in value because of their potential for cracking. This potential is recognized through customer knowledge and awareness of the problems, awareness of the problems by marine surveyors, and my own knowledge of the problem. I would not sell a 953 gel coat boat, even if it had not cracked, without disclosing its potential for cracking, [or] taking into account the financial liability I may incur [to fix such a boat] if such a boat is sold by me and later cracks.

(Barton, Hall, Maryott, and Robeson Reports).*fn4

The Hall report contains no sixth opinion. The other three reports opine as follows:

6. POST would lose the ability to sell new boats if it did not agree to repair boats made with 953 Series gel coat. (Barton Report).

6. I believe that the gel coat cracking is most severe and arises in boats that are used or kept in cold weather. I am also aware that many VIKING yachts are moved by their owners seasonally, so the boats are almost always in warm weather. This underscores my refusal to accept any VIKING yacht made with ...


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