Court admits the testimony of Industrial Hygiene & Mold Expert Witness with regard to source of water intrusions that caused the mold growth

Court admits the testimony of Industrial Hygiene & Mold Expert Witness with regard to source of water intrusions that caused the mold growth

Zahid Hotel Group, LLC, the owner of a LaQuinta Inn insured by AmGUARD Insurance Company, claimed extensive damage to the property following Hurricane Ida in August 2021. Although AmGUARD disbursed $1,032,617.92 for building repairs and mitigation, Zahid contended that the sum fell short of covering repair expenses and failed to compensate for business personal property and income loss as outlined in the policy.

Zahid initiated legal action against AmGUARD, alleging breach of contract, failure to adhere to statutory payment deadlines, and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. The sought-after damages included diminution in property value, actual repair costs, reimbursement for personal property repairs, loss of business income, consequential damages, attorney’s fees, and statutory penalties.

In response, AmGUARD launched a counterclaim against Zahid, asserting breach of contract, bad faith breach of contract, and a declaration of no coverage for misrepresentation. AmGUARD accused Zahid of overstating damages, attributing pre-existing damages to Hurricane Ida despite knowledge of their non-Ida origins, and failing to mitigate the damages caused by the hurricane.

Zahid filed a Daubert motion to exclude the testimony of AmGUARD’s mold expert, Dr. Coreen A. Robbins (“Robbins”), a Certified Industrial Hygienist, about severe mold growth and questions about the source of the water intrusions that caused the mold growth on the basis that her testimony will not assist the trier of fact, is not based on sufficient facts or data, and is not the product of reliably applied principles and methods. 

Industrial Hygiene & Mold Expert Witness

 Dr. Coreen A. Robbins MHS, Ph.D, CIH is a Senior Vice President and Principal Industrial Hygienist at J.S. Held, LLC. She holds a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Zoology from Michigan State University, a Master of Health Science (MHS) in Industrial Hygiene and Safety Sciences, and a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. She has been a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) since 1992. Robbins has worked as an industrial hygienist since 1986 and has served as a consultant and expert in investigations throughout the U.S. Her activities include exposure assessment in residential, commercial, and occupational environments and contexts (consumer, industrial products) and time frames (recent or current exposure, historical). Across these environments, contexts and time frames, she has experience and expertise with a wide variety of agents including animal and dust mite antigens, asbestos, benzene, carbon monoxide (CO), diacetyl, formaldehyde, fiberglass and other mineral fibers, glutaraldehyde, mold and bacteria, odors, and smoke residue/soot/ash. She has provided technical and expert consulting services and expert testimony in these and other areas in relation to exposure science and industrial hygiene. 

Discussion by the Court

Zahid contested the necessity of Robbins’ testimony on surface mold growth, asserting that Louisiana jurors possess adequate familiarity with mold growth patterns. They labeled Robbins’ deduction regarding the water intrusion source as an “educated guess,” lacking scientific foundation, particularly due to her purported failure to review historical hotel data. Zahid pointed out discrepancies between Robbins’ analysis of top-down water intrusion and pre-existing inspectors’ observations, challenging the coherence of her methodology.

Contrarily, AmGUARD defended Robbins’ expertise, emphasizing her qualifications as unquestionable despite differing conclusions from other experts. They highlighted her ability to differentiate between bulk event mold growth and condensation mold growth, enabling her to elucidate the varying mold appearances in different rooms and deduce the infiltration path of water into the building. AmGUARD addressed Zahid’s focus on grievances involving individuals not relevant to the Daubert motion, such as claims adjuster Michael Barrett and engineer, Kurt Mulder.

The Court determined that Robbins’ testimony was deemed beneficial to the fact-finding process, offering expertise beyond the common knowledge of a Louisiana juror regarding mold growth. Given the severity of mold issues and the inquiries into water intrusion sources, Robbins’ testimony provided scientific context, enhancing the parties’ arguments and findings about mold growth under various conditions. The fact that Robbins’ conclusions differed from other experts didn’t render her testimony as mere assertions (ipse dixit), as she applied scientific methodologies and conducted on-site inspections to substantiate her opinions.

Zahid’s challenge regarding Robbins’ methodology largely revolved around her perceived oversight of contradictory evidence, like Mulder’s photographs, a matter deemed appropriate for jury consideration rather than exclusion of testimony.


Consequently, the Court denied Zahid Hotel Group, LLC’s motion to exclude Corren Robbins’ testimony based on the aforementioned reasons. The Court has not arrived on an outcome for this case since the remaining issues involved in this case still await resolution.

Key Takeaways

In the legal dispute between Zahid Hotel Group and AmGUARD Insurance Company concerning property damage post-Hurricane Ida, Zahid sought to exclude the testimony of AmGUARD’s mold expert, Coreen Robbins, via a Daubert motion. Zahid argued that Robbins’ testimony lacked merit, citing her deductions as lacking scientific foundation due to alleged oversight of historical hotel data and discrepancies in her analysis. Conversely, AmGUARD defended Robbins’ expertise, highlighting her ability to differentiate mold growth types and provide crucial scientific context regarding severe mold issues post-hurricane. The Court deemed Robbins’ testimony valuable, extending beyond common knowledge and aiding in understanding intricate mold growth patterns. Despite differing conclusions from other experts, the Court found her methodologies sound, denying Zahid’s motion to exclude Robbins’ testimony from the case.