Florida Expert Witnesses

In a maritime negligence action, a plaintiff passenger appealed the district court’s order striking her expert witnesses.

Plaintiff was a passenger on a cruise ship. While aboard, she went to an upper deck to get some ice cream. There was a video camera that captured the incident that gave rise to the suit.

As Plaintiff walked toward the ice cream machine, she encountered a crewman.

The crewman began to open two small metal swinging doors at the top of the ice cream machine—both at eye level. As the crewman began to open the doors, he paused when he saw the Plaintiff, and he physically pointed at the doors.

Then, another passenger tapped Plaintiff on the shoulder and likewise pointed to the doors.

Plaintiff grasped one of the opening doors in unison with the crewman and assisted him in opening the door.

Plaintiff then bent under the open doors and got some ice cream from the container below.

With her ice cream in hand, she walked away from the ice cream machine.

As she walked toward the stairs to the side of the ice cream machine, she struck one of the open doors’ corners with her head, allegedly causing injury.

In this case, the district court’s scheduling order required expert disclosures by February 8, 2017. On that day, Plaintiff sent an email purporting to be an expert witness disclosure.

The email failed to include the names of any witnesses, but stated: “At trial, the only witnesses whom I may ask to provide expert opinions are the medical providers whose records you have received through the discovery process.”

As to subject matter, facts, and opinions, the email merely stated that such information “is contained in their records and reports that you have received through discovery.

In addition, all these witnesses will testify that the accident on the Defendant’s ship . . . caused the injuries described in the medical records/reports.”

Two days later (and two days late under the scheduling order), Plaintiff sent a letter, stating: “This is our list of medical witness [sic] for trial.” The list contained the names of five people and their contact information and also listed the ship’s infirmary. The list from Plaintiff contained no additional information.

More than a month later, after the Cruise Line moved to strike the expert witnesses, the Plaintiff sent another email, this time purporting to amend her earlier expert disclosure.

This email listed three people, and had one additional sentence: “In addition to what he wrote in his reports, Dr. G[] will also testify that the Plaintiff’s traumatic brain injury is a permanent injury.”

The magistrate judge granted the Cruise Line’s motion to strike. Plaintiff objected to and appealed from the magistrate judge’s order.

In a per curium opinion, the District Court for the Southern District of Florida found that there was no abuse of discretion in the district court’s striking of the expert witnesses.

Plaintiff complied with neither the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure nor the district court’s scheduling order in her attempt to disclose her expert witnesses. The only timely purported disclosure didn’t even include names.

The Court noted that the disclosure contained almost no information, except a reference to the “records and reports that [the Cruise Line] received through discovery.”

Allowing this type of vague reference, the Court held, defeats the purpose of the Federal Rules, and “would invite a party to dump voluminous medical records on the opposing party, contrary to the rule’s attempt to extract a ‘summary.’”

Because the passenger failed to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the district court’s scheduling order in her attempt to disclose her expert witnesses, the decision of the magistrate was affirmed.