Golf, the Commercial Division, and Expert Disclosure: No Sandbaggers Allowed!
November 16, 2017
“The expert discovery rules are promulgated so no party will be ‘sandbagged’ or surprised by another expert’s opinion” – Manhattan Commercial Division Justice Eileen Bransten
Several weeks ago, we reviewed some of the newer Commercial Division Rules and reported on a couple of recent decisions from Justice Shirley Werner Korneich of the Manhattan Commercial Division applying one of those Rules, Rule 11-c, concerning nonparty electronic discovery. We follow up this week as promised with a look at another recent new-rule application from the same court.
Earlier this year, Justice Eileen Bransten, whose similarly-insightful decisions also are regular fodder for this blog, addressed issues concerning expert disclosure under Commercial Division Rule 13(c) in Singh v PGA Tour, Inc.
In Singh, the plaintiff, a professional golfer and member of the defendant PGA Tour, sued the Tour alleging that he had been humiliated by an arbitrary administration of the Tour’s anti-doping program and that the Tour wrongfully withheld his prize monies. Singh had used a product called “deer antler spray” between seasons to address knee and back problems. Sports Illustrated later posted an article about the spray on its website, referencing Singh’s use and suggesting that he had used it in violation of the Tour’s drug policy. Singh responded by providing the Tour with a bottle of the spray for testing. The initial results were negative for steroids but positive for a separate prohibited substance called “IGF-1.” The Tour suspended Singh and held his 2013 prize money in escrow. Singh challenged the Tour’s determination in arbitration.
The World Anti-Doping Agency, from which the Tour adopted its list of prohibited substances, subsequently determined that deer-antler spray was not a prohibited substance. As a result, the Tour dropped its disciplinary action against Singh, and the arbitration was discontinued on the eve of the hearing. Singh then sued the Tour in the Manhattan Commercial Division.
In the course of expert discovery in the Supreme Court action, Singh submitted a second, expert “reply report,” which the Tour challenged under Commercial Division Rule 13(c) as “impermissibly including new opinions which were not included in the first report.” Specifically, Singh’s expert reply contained certain newly-obtained “consumer data” leading Singh to conclude that the “Tour suspension reduced the favorable criteria that marketing executives would use in their decision-making process in evaluating Singh’s viability as a spokesperson/endorser/advocate.”
Rule 13(c) mandates that an expert report contain, among other things, “a complete statement of all opinions the witness will express and the basis and the reasons for them,” as well as “the data or other information considered by the witness in forming the opinion(s).” Quoting from The Chief Judge’s Task Force on Commercial Litigation in the 21st Century, Justice Bransten noted in her decision that “this rule was promulgated in an effort to harmonize the disclosure rules of our state and federal courts,” and that the Commercial Division looks to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “for guidance on expert disclosure issues.” Federal Rule 26(a)(2)(B) mandates that an expert report contain the same statement, data, and information cited above, and Federal Rule 37(c)(1) provides that if a party fails to do so, “the party is not allowed to use that information or witness to supply evidence on a motion, at a hearing, or at trial.”
Justice Bransten granted the Tour’s motion to strike Singh’s expert reply, finding that “the new analysis, information, opinion and data contained within Plaintiff’s Reply Expert Report violates Commercial Division Rule 13(c) and FRCP 26.” Noting the “egregiousness of the belated disclosure,” Justice Bransten cautioned Commercial Division practitioners that Rule 13(c) does not provide for “an opportunity for a party to ‘correct’ the deficiencies and omissions made in an initial expert report — including addition of new data and opinions, particularly when that data was available to the expert at the time the initial report was issued” or for an expert “to say what he neglected to say in his opening report.”
The rules of golf prohibit a player from “sandbagging” or deceiving others about their knowledge, intentions, and abilities. As Justice Bransten’s recent decision in Singh v PGA Tour, Inc. makes clear, the same goes for the Commercial Division Rules regarding expert disclosure.
**Nota Bene** – Readers interested in hearing from Commercial Division Justices directly on lessons to be drawn from the implementation of some of these new rules and rule-changes should register for the upcoming Bench & Bar Forum sponsored by the NYSBA Commercial & Federal Litigation Section. The program, entitled “True Innovation and Efficiency: New York County Commercial Division Justices Discuss the Success of the New Commercial Division Rules,” is scheduled for the evening of November 27th at Foley & Lardner LLP.