United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division
BRADLEY T. OTTO, as personal representative of the estate of Blaine P. Otto, deceased, Plaintiff,
NEWFIELD EXPLORATION COMPANY, and NEWFIELD PRODUCTION COMPANY, and NEWFIELD EXPLORATION MID-CONTINENT, INC., Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. WAITERS United States District Judge.
the Court is a Motion to Strike filed by Defendants Newfield
Exploration Company, Newfield Product Company, and Newfield
Exploration Mid-Continent, Inc., (Newfield). (Doc. 35).
Newfield asks the Court to strike Plaintiff Estate of Blain
P. Otto's liability expert witnesses Edward R. Ziegler
(Ziegler) and Dr. Tee L. Guidotti (Dr. Guidotti) under
Federal Rule of Evidence 702. For the reasons discussed
below, the Court DENIES Newfield's Motion to Strike.
Otto (Otto) was employed by a company that provided tank
inspection services, among other things, to Newfield on a
contract basis at various well sites in the Bakken Shale Oil
Field. (Doc. 1). On July 18, 2013, Otto was found dead on the
catwalk of an oil storage tank. (Doc. 1). Otto's estate
filed suit, alleging Otto died of exposure to deadly vapors
due to intentional, reckless, and/or negligent conduct by
Newfield. (Doc. 1). Newfield disputes the cause of Otto's
death and denies its conduct was intentional, reckless, or
negligent. (Doc. 6). Otto's estate retained Dr. Guidotti
and Ziegler as liability experts.
Guidotti is a physician, qualified as a board-certified
specialist in internal medicine, pulmonary medicine, and
occupational medicine. (Doc. 36-1 at 1). He is also a retired
professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the
George Washington University Medical Center, where he was
Chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational
Health of the School of Public Health and Health Services and
Director of the Division of Occupational Medicine and
Toxicology, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine and
Health Services. (Doc. 36-1 at 1). He has worked with the oil
and gas industry for over 35 years and is currently an
international consultant. (Doc. 36-1 at 1).
Guidotti's opinion is that Otto's death was caused by
exposure to deadly vapors. (Doc. 36-1 at 8). Dr. Guidotti
formulated his opinion after review of numerous documents and
items of evidence, including the autopsy report, the OSHA
fatality report, and information disclosed during discovery.
(Doc. 36-1 at 1-2). Based on the evidence, Dr. Guidotti
listed four possible causes of Otto's death: (1)
inhalation of hydrocarbon vapors; (2) depleted oxygen levels
due to displacement by hydrocarbon vapors; (3) inhalation of
hydrogen sulfide; and (4) natural causes. (Doc. 36-1 at 3-4).
Dr. Guidotti then proceeded to eliminate each cause based on
its likelihood, concluding inhalation of hydrocarbon vapors
was the most likely cause of Otto's death. (Doc. 36 at
is a petroleum and natural gas engineer, a registered
Professional Engineer, and a Certified Safety Professional.
(Doc. 36-4 at 4). He is also trained as an OSHA 500 Program
Instructor. (Doc. 36-4 at 4). Ziegler has worked in the oil
and gas business for over 35 years. (Doc. 36-4 at 4).
opinion is that Newfield's conduct was grossly below any
industry standard. (Doc. 36-4 at 19). Ziegler formulated his
opinion after review of numerous documents and pieces of
evidence, including safety regulations, the OSHA file, and
information disclosed during discovery. (Doc. 36-4 at 3).
Rule of Evidence 702 governs the admissibility of expert
testimony. It provides that a "witness qualified as an
expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or
education may testify in the form of an opinion or
(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other
specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to
understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and
methods to the ...