Testimony of Maritime Expert Witness Helps the Court Determine Disputed Facts

Testimony of Maritime Expert Witness Helps the Court Determine Disputed Facts

On May 5, 2021, Timothy Shannon allegedly sustained personal injuries while he was a passenger aboard M/V MR LLOYD. The vessel traveled from a dock in Fourchon, Louisiana to a Talos Oil & Gas LLC production platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Rodi Marine, LLC owned and operated M/V MR. LLOYD while Talos was the time charterer of the vessel pursuant to a Master Service Contract (“Talos-Rodi Contract”). Plaintiff filed a lawsuit on account of the injuries he allegedly sustained when the vessel encountered rough seas during the Voyage.

Plaintiff hired Captain Gregg Daley to opine about the supposed legal duties that Talos owed to Plaintiff. Daley served as the marine operations and marine safety expert. Daley stated that Talos breached his duty to prevent the Rodi captain from leaving the dock considering the forecasted sea conditions were extremely rough.

Talos moved to exclude Captain Daley’s opinions regarding Talos’
alleged liability to Plaintiff arguing that they consisted of legal conclusions, were unreliable under Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert, and lacked factual support. The Court denied the motion to strike Daley’s opinions.

Maritime Expert Witness

Gregory Daley has extensive experience as a captain of oilfield offshore supply vessels spanning ten years. In addition to his practical experience, he holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, as well as a Master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Moreover, he has earned an MBA from Oklahoma State University.

Discussion by the Court

Daley submitted a 116-page Expert Report on August 11, 2023 consisting of four separate opinions. He claimed to have hands on experience with regard to similar vessels in adverse weather conditions. He assessed the vessel’s responses to various weather conditions, including the adverse conditions of this incident.

Daley opined that the actual weather encountered by the M/V MR LLOYD during the voyage on the morning of May 5, 2021, was six-foot significant wave height seas, which produced twelve-foot maximum wave height waves approximately once per hour. He added that a speed of 20 knots was too fast for the M/V MR LLOYD to be traveling when there were six-foot significant wave heights. He argued that Rodi should have had access to the DTN WeatherOps forecasts received by Talos, which were more informative than the Advanced Logistics forecasts received by Rodi, either by direct subscription, forwarding from Talos, or by reviewing them with the Talos dispatcher prior to departure. Moreover, Talos should not have dispatched the M/V MR LLOYD into seas with a six-to-nine-foot significant wave height and a twelve-to-eighteen-foot maximum wave height.

Daley’s Opinions Constituted Inadmissible Legal Conclusions

Talos did not direct the Court to any portion of Daley’s report that offered a legal conclusion.

Talos contested the foundation of Daley’s opinions concerning the supposed legal duties owed by Talos to Plaintiff which allegedly constituted legal conclusions. Plaintiff argued that Daley’s opinions are the type of testimony Federal Rule of Evidence 704 permits.

Daley testified that Talos, as time charterer, should have prevented Captain Jordan from making this Voyage because Talos was aware of the forecasted sea conditions on May 5, 2021. Talos responded by asserting that the captain of the vessel decided whether to begin or complete a voyage, not the time charterer. The Court found the testimony of Daley was helpful to determine facts in dispute, which were:

  • Whether Talos exercised control over the timing and the means by which a crew change is accomplished
  • Whether Talos was negligent in failing to postpone the crew change or conduct the crew change via helicopter

Daley’s Opinion Regarding Talos’ Liability Lacked Factual Basis

Talos argued that there was no evidence to prove Daley’s assertion that Talos was liable for dispatching M/V MR. LLOYD to the GC-18 Platform. The Court rejected Talos’ argument and held that cross-examination served as an adequate safeguard against Daley’s testimony.

Daley’s Opinions are Inadmissible Because they are Ipse Dixit

The Court rejected Talos’ assertion that Daley’s opinions concerning Talos’ alleged duties as the time-charterer of the M/V MR LLOYD should be excluded as ipse dixit. The Court noted, however, that Talos’ Reply
brief did not mention the phrase “ipse dixit.”

The Court found Daley’s report to be based upon his maritime training and experience.


The Court denied Talos Oil and Gas LLC’s Motion to Strike the Testimony of Plaintiff’s Liability Expert, Gregg Daley.

The Court has not arrived on an outcome for this case since the remaining issues involved in this case still await resolution.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Expertise and Experience: Expert witnesses, such as Gregg Daley, are expected to possess hands-on experience and specialized knowledge relevant to the subject matter of the case. In this instance, Daley’s expertise in maritime operations was highlighted.
  2. Opinions Based upon Assessment of Facts: Daley’s opinions were based upon his assessment of factual information, including the actual weather conditions encountered during the voyage and the appropriateness of the vessel’s speed given those conditions.
  3. Challenges to Opinions: The opposing party may challenge the admissibility or credibility of expert opinions. Talos challenged Daley’s opinions on grounds such as constituting legal conclusions, lacking factual basis, and being mere assertions (“ipse dixit“).
  4. Role of Expert Testimony in Determining Facts: Expert testimony can help the Court determine disputed facts, particularly when it comes to technical or specialized matters. Daley’s testimony assisted the Court in assessing whether Talos exercised control over certain aspects of the voyage and whether it was negligent in its actions.
  5. Cross-Examination and Safeguarding: Cross-examination serves as a mechanism for testing the credibility and reliability of expert testimony. While Talos argued against the admissibility of Daley’s opinions, the Court found that cross-examination provided an adequate safeguard against any potential shortcomings in Daley’s testimony.
  6. Basis for Opinions: Expert opinions should be grounded in the expert’s training, experience, and the available evidence. The Court found Daley’s opinions to be based upon his maritime training and experience, which bolstered their admissibility.

Case Details:

Case Caption:Shannon v. Rodi Marine, LLC
Docket Number:2:22cv1222
Court:United States District Court, Louisiana Eastern
Citation:2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39871
Order Date:March 7, 2024


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