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Grande Village LLC v. CIBC Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 22, 2018

GRANDE VILLAGE LLC, GRANDE PROPERTIES, LLC, WILLINGBORO TOWN CENTER URBAN RENEWAL NORTH, LLC, WILLINGBORO TOWN CENTER NORTH MANAGER, LLC, WILLIAM T. JULIANO, and THOMAS E. JULIANO, Plaintiffs,
v.
CIBC INC. and CANADIAN IMPERIAL BANK OF COMMERCE, NEW YORK AGENCY, Defendants.

          DAVID L. BRAVERMAN BENJAMIN ALEX GARBER PETER J. LEYH BRAVERMAN KASKEY, P.C. On behalf of the Juliano Parties

          ADAM K. DERMAN DAVID M. DUGAN CHIESA SHAHINIAN & GIANTOMASI PC On behalf of CIBC

          JEAN-MARIE L. ATAMIAN (admitted pro hac vice) JORDAN SAGALOWSKY (admitted pro hac vice) JAMES C. DUPONT (admitted pro hac vice) MAYER BROWN LLP On behalf of CIBC

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         This is a breach of contract matter involving various loan and mortgage documents arising out of real estate developments in New Jersey. The Court assumes the parties are familiar with the background facts of this case and will not recite them here. On March 30, 2018, the Court granted in part and denied in part a motion for summary judgment. The remaining claims will be resolved at a bench trial before the undersigned.[1] On May 21, 2018, CIBC filed two motions in limine seeking to exclude the expert testimony of Alan Fellheimer and Hal Michels. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny both motions, which seek total exclusion of the experts. The Court will, however, order restrictions on each expert's testimony and guidelines for what is permissible and what is not.

         I.

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 provides:

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.

         The Third Circuit has described the requirements of Federal Rule of Evidence 702 as a “trilogy of restrictions on expert testimony: qualification, reliability and fit.” Calhoun v. Yamaha Motor Corp., 350 F.3d 316, 321 (3d Cir. 2003) (quoting Schneider ex rel. Estate of Schneider v. Fried, 320 F.3d 396, 405 (3d Cir. 2003)). “[T]he district court acts as a gatekeeper, preventing opinion testimony that does not meet the requirements of qualification, reliability and fit from reaching the jury.” Schneider, 320 F.3d at 404.

         A. Qualified

         A witness “must be qualified to testify as an expert.” Calhoun, 350 F.3d at 321. This “requires ‘that the witness possess specialized expertise.'” Id. (quoting Schneider, 320 F.3d at 405). However, the Third Circuit “interpret[s] this requirement liberally, ” and an expert can be qualified through “a broad range of knowledge, skills, and training.” Id. (quoting In re Paoli R.R. Yard PCB Litig., 35 F.3d 717, 741 (3d Cir. 1994)). This “liberal policy of admissibility extends to the substantive as well as the formal qualification of experts.” In re Paoli, 35 F.3d at 741. The Third Circuit has “eschewed imposing overly rigorous requirements of expertise and ha[s] been satisfied with more generalized qualifications.” Id.

         “[I]t is an abuse of discretion to exclude testimony simply because the trial court does not deem the proposed expert to be the best qualified or because the expert does not have the specialization that the court considers most appropriate.” Lauria v. AMTRAK, 145 F.3d 593, 598-99 (3d Cir. 1998) (quoting Holbrook v. Lykes Bros. S.S. Co., 80 F.3d 777, 782 (3d Cir. 1996)). Indeed, experts can be qualified “on the basis of practical experience alone, and a formal degree, title, or educational specialty is not required.” Id. “[I]nsistence on a certain kind of degree or background is inconsistent” with Third Circuit jurisprudence. In re Paoli, 916 F.2d at 855.

         B. Reliable

         An expert witness's “testimony must be reliable.” Calhoun, 350 F.3d at 321. “To establish reliability, the testimony ‘must be based on the methods and procedures of science rather than on subjective belief or unsupported speculation; the expert must have good grounds for his . . . belief.'” Furlan v. Schindler Elevator Corp., 516 Fed.Appx. 201, 205 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Schneider, 320 F.3d at 404). “In Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993), the Supreme Court charged trial judges with the responsibility of acting as ‘gatekeepers' to exclude unreliable expert testimony.” Calhoun, 350 F.3d at 320-21 (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 597).

         Federal Rule of Evidence 703 provides:

An expert may base an opinion on facts or data in the case that the expert has been aware of or personally observed. If experts in the particular field would reasonably rely on those kinds of facts or data in forming an opinion on the subject, they need not be admissible for the opinion to be admitted. But if the facts or data would otherwise be inadmissible, the proponent of the opinion may disclose them to the jury only if their ...

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