Webster Bank (“Webster”) sued Pierce & Associates, P.C. (“Pierce”) in connection with its alleged mishandling of a loan collection matter on Webster’s behalf. t issue was the standard of care and whether Pierce breached it. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois held that the question must be answered based on expert testimony at trial. However, Pierce moved to strike the testimony of Webster’s expert: G. Patrick Murphy (“Murphy”). Pierce argued that Murphy, a retired Federal District Court Judge and litigator, was unqualified to speak on the “highly idiosyncratic rules and customs of high volume debt collection practices” and that Murphy’s report failed to show specifically how his experience informed his conclusions.
The Court denied the motion, holding that Murphy was “qualified by knowledge and experience to address the standard of care for Illinois civil litigators.” Id. at 3. It explained that “the crux of this case is not about nuances and intricacies” of the underlying matter, but rather “the standard of care for a reasonable attorney practicing in Illinois under similar circumstances.” Id.
As for Murphy’s report, the Court held that an expert’s reliance on experience, rather than a particular methodology, did not necessarily render his opinion unreliable. The report was therefore admissible insofar as it explained what the standard of care was.
However, the Court barred any conclusion by Murphy as to whether Pierce violated that standard. It explained that “Murphy can testify as to the standard of care, what reasonably careful lawyers would have done, and what mistakes Pierce made. Murphy cannot tell the jury that Pierce violated the standard of care—that is the very question the jury will answer. It is the jury’s role to determine whether Pierce violated the standard of care, not Murphy’s.” Id. at 5.
(This is for informational purposes and is not legal advice.)