Southern District of New York Strikes Expert Interpreting Marine Insurance Policy

On June 21, 2022, Magistrate Judge Gorenstein of the Southern District of New York (S.D.N.Y.) issued an Opinion & Order in Navigators Insurance Company v. Goyard, Inc., 20-cv-6609, striking Plaintiff’s expert on the basis that his opinion was an impermissible legal conclusion interpreting the insurance contract at issue.

In 2019, Navigators Insurance Company (“Navigators”) issued a marine cargo insurance policy to Goyard.  The policy provided coverage for goods during shipping and when held in certain specified locations.  In June 2020, various goods were damaged and/or stolen from Goyard’s NYC location.  Goyard submitted a claim under the policy seeking to recover losses associated with damage and theft of the goods.  Navigators denied the claim and sought declaratory relief for a finding that the losses were not covered under the policy because of a “strikes, riots and civil commotion” exclusion.

Navigators expert prepared a report opining on the meaning and effect of various provisions of the policy as they applied to the claim and concluded that Goyard’s stolen goods were not covered, as they were taken by looters participating in riots.  In turn, Goyard moved to strike the expert opinions on the grounds that it would not help the trier of fact as required by Fed. R. Evid. 702(a).

The Court granted the motion to strike the report, holding that the expert report was an impermissible legal analysis of the policy which usurps the trier of facts role in finding the facts and applying those facts to the law.  In support of the decision, the Court performed a detailed analysis of Fed. R. Evid. 702(a), focusing on the fact that an expert’s primary function is to help the trier of fact and while an expert may opine on an issue of fact within the jury’s province, he/she may not give testimony stating ultimate legal conclusions.

To read the full opinion, please click here.

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