Law School Case Brief
David E. Watson, P.C. v. United States - 668 F.3d 1008 (8th Cir. 2012)
Generally, the factual basis of an expert opinion goes to the credibility of the testimony, not the admissibility, and it is up to the opposing party to examine the factual basis for the opinion in cross-examination. However, if the expert's opinion is so fundamentally unsupported that it can offer no assistance to the fact-finder, it must be excluded. Previously, the Eighth Circuit has determined that when an expert fails to take into account a plethora of specific facts his or her testimony is properly excluded.
Plaintiff taxpayer sued defendant United States after the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) denied its refund claim. The IRS determined that plaintiff, a professional corporation, had underpaid certain Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA), 26 U.S.C.S. § 3101 et seq., taxes. At the trial, the district court adopted a government expert’s opinion and determined the reasonable amount of plaintiff’s remuneration for services. The district court rendered a tax deficiency judgment against the plaintiff. Plaintiff appealed.
Did the district court err in allowing the government witness to testify as expert witness on the issue of compensation?
The court affirmed and held that the government's witness, as a general engineer for the IRS, spent about 40 percent of his time dealing with compensation issues and had worked on about 20 to 30 reasonable compensation cases; even if the witness's education and training was not specifically tailored to compensation issues, he certainly had demonstrated practical experience qualifying him as an expert in the field.
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