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Noon v. Carnival Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

November 6, 2019

RANDALL NOON, as Personal Representative of the Estate of KAREN NOON, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
ARNIVAL CORPORATION, a Panamanian Corporation d/b/a CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES, Defendant.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S DAUBERT MOTION

          EDWIN G. TORRES United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Carnival Corporation's (“Defendant” or “Carnival”) Daubert motion to exclude the testimony of Dr. Robert Myerburg's (“Dr. Myerburg”) opinion as to the life expectancy of Karen Noon (“Mrs. Noon”). [D.E. 58]. Plaintiff responded on September 6, 2019 [D.E. 63] to which Defendant replied on September 13, 2019. [D.E. 64]. Therefore, Defendant's motion is now ripe for disposition. After careful review of the motion, response, reply, relevant authority, and for the reasons discussed below, Defendant's Daubert motion is GRANTED.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this wrongful death action on behalf of his wife, Mrs. Noon, on August 3, 2018 because of the negligence of Defendant's medical and non-medical personnel. [D.E. 1]. Plaintiff alleges that, on July 7, 2017, Mrs. Noon started to experience shortness of breath and respiratory distress. Mrs. Noon was then taken to her stateroom in a wheelchair that Carnival provided. Once Mrs. Noon returned to her stateroom, her family members called the ship's medical center and informed them that Mrs. Noon was having difficulty breathing. The medical staff informed the family that an oxygen tank could be provided at a cost of $300.00. The medical center provided the tank but without an examination of Mrs. Noon, either in the medical center or in her stateroom. Instead, Mr. Noon picked up the oxygen tank[2]and took it back to the stateroom.

         Mrs. Noon used the oxygen tank during the remainder of the evening of July 7, 2017 until the early morning of July 8, 2017. At approximately 7:00 a.m. on July 8, 2017 (when the ship was docked in Miami, Florida), the ship's medical center staff contacted Mr. and Mrs. Noon in their stateroom and informed them that they had to return the oxygen tank because it was time to disembark the ship. Plaintiff alleges that, shortly thereafter, two crewmembers came to the stateroom and retrieved the oxygen tank without any examination of Mrs. Noon or any notification to the ship's medical personnel that a professional medical examination may be necessary.

         After the ship was docked in port, Mr. Noon and his family members expressed a desire to keep the oxygen tank until they were transported to a land-based hospital. Plaintiff alleges that Carnival's non-medical crewmembers supervising the disembarkation procedures refused to allow Mrs. Noon to keep the oxygen tank or to provide a substitute tank. Mrs. Noon's family then requested that Carnival's crewmembers arrange for transportation to a land-based hospital or medical facility. But, Plaintiff claims that Carnival's crewmembers failed to contact any emergency service providers. Plaintiff further alleges that crewmembers refused to allow Mrs. Noon or her husband to contact any emergency service providers on their own.

         After Mrs. Noon disembarked the ship - unaccompanied by any of Carnival's crewmembers or any other medical personnel - she went into respiratory arrest. Emergency responders arrived and found Mrs. Noon unresponsive in cardiopulmonary arrest with no respirations. The Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department transported Mrs. Noon to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead on July 9, 2017.

         In Plaintiff's second amended complaint, Plaintiff asserts four vicarious liability claims against Carnival: (1) vicarious liability for negligence breach of a nonmedical crewmember's duty to provide aid or assistance to a sick or injured passenger, (2) negligent breach of an assumed or undertaken duty to obtain medical care by nonmedical crewmembers, (3) negligent breach of an assumed or undertaken duty to obtain medical care by medical crewmembers with actual authority, and (4) negligent breach of an assumed or undertaken duty to obtain medical care by the medical crew with apparent authority. Plaintiff limits the negligence allegations against Defendant to the time period after the ship reached port in Miami, Florida. Plaintiff also seeks compensatory damages under the Florida Wrongful Death Act (and alternatively under Michigan's wrongful death and survival statutes), including punitive damages in each count.

         II. APPLICABLE PRINCIPLES AND LAW

         The decision to admit or exclude expert testimony is within the trial court's discretion and the court enjoys “considerable leeway” when determining the admissibility of this testimony. See Cook v. Sheriff of Monroe County, Fla., 402 F.3d 1092, 1103 (11th Cir. 2005). As explained in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), the admissibility of expert testimony is governed by Fed.R.Evid. 702. The party offering the expert testimony carries the burden of laying the proper foundation for its admission, and admissibility must be shown by a preponderance of the evidence. See Allison v. McGhan Med. Corp., 184 F.3d 1300, 1306 (11th Cir. 1999); see also United States v. Frazier, 387 F.3d 1244, 1260 (11th Cir. 2004) (“The burden of establishing qualification, reliability, and helpfulness rests on the proponent of the expert opinion, whether the proponent is the plaintiff or the defendant in a civil suit, or the government or the accused in a criminal case.”).

         “Under Rule 702 and Daubert, district courts must act as ‘gate keepers' which admit expert testimony only if it is both reliable and relevant.” Rink v. Cheminova, Inc., 400 F.3d 1286, 1291 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 589).[3] The purpose of this role is “to ensure that speculative, unreliable expert testimony does not reach the jury.” McCorvey v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 298 F.3d 1253, 1256 (11th Cir. 2002). Also, in its role as “gatekeeper, ” its duty is not “to make ultimate conclusions as to the persuasiveness of the proffered evidence.” Quiet Tech. DC-8, Inc. v. Hurel-Dubois UK Ltd., 326 F.3d 1333, 1341 (11th Cir. 2003)

         To facilitate this process, district courts engage in a three-part inquiry to determine the admissibility of expert testimony:

(1) the expert is qualified to testify competently regarding the matters he intends to address; (2) the methodology by which the expert reaches his conclusions is sufficiently reliable as determined by the sort of inquiry mandated in Daubert; and (3) the testimony assists the trier of fact, through the application of scientific, technical, or specialized expertise, to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.

City of Tuscaloosa, 158 F.3d 548, 562 (11th Cir. 1998) (citations omitted). The Eleventh Circuit refers to the aforementioned requirements as the “qualification, ” “reliability, ” and “helpfulness” prongs and while they “remain distinct concepts”; “the courts must take care not to conflate ...


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