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Situ v. O'Neill

Area of Law:

Wrongful Death. An apartment fire led to a death. The decedent’s heirs brought suit.

Grounds:

Plaintiffs moved to exclude expert testimony regarding: (i) lost income, arguing that the data used by the expert was unreliable, speculative, and unverified and (ii) cause of the fire, arguing that the expert failed to conduct appropriate testing.

Outcome:

Both motions were denied because the challenges were to the weight, not the admissibility of the testimony.

Analysis:

Testimony regarding lost income:

The opinion regarding lost income relied on data provided by the decedent’s business partner but also made some assumptions. Given that a lot of the information usually relied upon by accountants was allegedly destroyed by the fire, the opinion was sufficiently supported to be admissible. Even speculative opinions may be admissible as long as the opposing counsel has an opportunity for cross-examination. Defendants could cross-examine the expert on corroboration of the data at trial.

Testimony regarding cause of fire:

Although the fire expert did not conduct appropriate testing on the gas pipe found after the excavation of the fire site, such failure did not render the testimony inadmissible. The report was based on sound methodology and any perceived weaknesses went to the weight of the testimony, not its admissibility.