• U.S. District Court of Delaware
  • D66269

U.S. DISTRICT COURT OF DELAWARE

Tridon Industries Inc. v. Willis Chevrolet Inc., DeFAX Case No. D66269 (D. Del. April 1, 2014) Stark, J. (11 pages).

In this matter relating to a motor vehicle accident, the court denied a motion in limine as premature and denied a motion to strike an expert's report where the objection went to the weight and not admissibility of the report. Motion for summary judgment granted in part, denied in part.

Tridon initiated this negligence action against defendants Willis Chevrolet and the estate of Robert Poore for damages allegedly incurred as the result of a motor vehicle accident. Poore was an employee of Willis Chevrolet and he was the driver of the vehicle which collided with Tridon's specially modified truck. Tridon's truck was retrofitted with special equipment to convert it into a mobile platform for foam installation.

It was undisputed that Tridon's truck was damaged in the accident. Tridon filed this action seeking recovery for equipment damage, business expenses and business losses.

Willis filed three motions: 1) a motion in limine to preclude reference to defendants' insurance coverage; 2) a motion to strike expert testimony; and 3) a motion for summary judgment. The court denied without prejudice the motion in limine as premature.

In its motion to strike, Willis argued that the report of Tridon's expert was based on non-existent or inaccurate factual data, ignored key business data and relied on unsubstantiated guesstimates of alleged profitability. The two factual inaccuracies had to do with the dissolution date and the number of trucks in Tridon's fleet. Willis did not explain how these factual mistakes undermined the expert's opinion of lost profits, or if that factual information was even used by the expert in calculating damages. Willis also argued the expert had better data to determine the profits generated by Tridon's modified truck. The court held that even if that premise were accepted, it would not render the expert's report inadmissible under Rule 702. Willis' concerns about the expert report went to weight and not admissibility. In denying the motion to strike, the court noted that Willis could adequately address competing evidence through cross-examination of Tridon's expert.

Willis sought summary judgment claiming that Tridon had not produced sufficient evidence on its claim for property damage, and that Tridon's economic loss claim was untenable because it was impermissibly speculative. The court granted Willis' summary judgment motion as to the property damage claim, but denied it with regard to the economic losses claim.

Willis argued that because Tridon provided no expert evidence on damage to the equipment it could not satisfy the essential elements of a property damage claim. Tridon countered by saying its personnel were competent to testify that the equipment in question was damaged and unusable after the accident. The court agreed with Willis.

With regard to business losses, Willis contended that Tridon failed to present a sufficient connection between its profits and the alleged damage sustained to the masonry foam truck and equipment. The court disagreed that the claim for lost profits was too speculative. Tridon attempted after the accident to use a rental truck to fulfill its remaining contracts and it provided an expert's report to detail its losses. That portion of Willis' motion for summary judgment was denied.

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