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Sting Soccer Operations Group v. J.P. Morgan

Area of Law:

Conversion, breach of contract, defamation, negligence. This case arose from Chase Bank’s commencement of closure proceedings on Plaintiffs’ deposit accounts.

Grounds:

1) Defendant sought to preclude the testimony of Plaintiffs’ expert on the ground of impermissible legal conclusion, lack of reliability, and lack of necessary qualifications. 2) Plaintiffs sought to preclude the testimony of Defendant’s expert on the grounds of lack of reliability and lack of necessary qualifications.

Outcome:

Defendant’s motion was granted in part and denied in part; Defendant’s motion was denied.

Analysis:

Opinions of Christopher Kelly:

First, the court declined to preclude the testimony of Plaintiffs’ expert Kelly (banking industry) that the bank failed to comply with the Deposit Account Agreement between the bank and Plaintiffs. The court noted that rules of evidence allow an expert to provide opinions that embrace the ultimate issue to be decided by the trier of fact. Slip op. at 5. Although the ultimate determination of the breach of contract is made by the court, disputed facts surrounding the breach are submitted to the jury, and Kelly’s opinion was admissible as it pertains to the interpretation of those facts. Id.

Second, the court denied the motion to exclude Kelly’s opinion that that the bank failed to act in a commercially reasonable manner under the circumstances by restricting Plaintiffs’ accounts. The court concluded that Kelly had sufficient experience in the banking industry relevant to the present case and was able to draw conclusions based on his analysis of the facts. Slip op. at 6. His failure to cite industry standard or interview other banks went to the weight, not admissibility of his opinion. Id. at 7. (The court granted the motion to strike as to another opinion on commercial reasonableness because it pertained to a claim dropped from the case.)

Third, the court denied the motion to exclude Kelly’s opinion that the bank should have been aware that if the authorities considered Plaintiffs’ accounts to be involved in illegal activity, they would have acted to seize such funds before. The court held that Kelly possessed sufficient experience regarding law enforcement’s interaction with banks, and his testimony would assist the trier of fact in understanding facts based on his experience within the banking industry. Slip op. at 8.

Opinions of Barry Bell:

The court, first, declined to preclude Defendant’s expert Bell (finance) for failure to consider alternate causes for Plaintiffs’ alleged damages, specifically Plaintiff Coralli’s felony conviction. This argument went to the weight, not admissibility, of the testimony. Slip op. at 9-10. The court also rejected Plaintiffs’ objections relating to the sufficiency of Bell’s financial analysis. The analysis was based on the evaluation of the factual testimony of persons within Plaintiffs’ youth soccer organization and the analysis of the organization’s financial records. The court found that the financial analysis, coupled with facts gathered via the interviews, was sufficiently reliable.

Finally, the court rejected Plaintiffs’ objections to Bell’s qualifications because he did not have experience in either the youth soccer business or financial services industry. Bell held a MBA, had over twenty years of experience analyzing damages in commercial litigation matters, and had given several presentations on the subject of financial damages. The court found that he had demonstrated adequate experience, education, training, skill and knowledge to qualify under Rule 702. Slip op. at 10-11.