St. Louis Record

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Steak N Shake denied motion to exclude expert testimony in overtime wage lawsuit


By Charmaine Little | Jan 31, 2019


ST. LOUIS – On Jan. 25, Steak N Shake Operations Inc. couldn’t convince the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Missouri for the Eastern Division to exclude the report and testimony of a class action’s expert in a suit over allegedly unpaid overtime wages.

U.S. District Judge John A. Ross denied on Jan. 25 Steak N Shake’s motion to exclude the report and testimony of the expert for plaintiffs Sandra Drake and Randy Smith, who filed the class action on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated.

Ross ruled that the report contains "sufficient evidence to assist the jury in making a just and reasonable inference as to the amount and extent of unpaid work by plaintiffs" and "therefore it is relevant."

The plaintiffs represent two different classes of current and previous managers who allege they are owed unpaid overtime wages for work in the defendant's St. Louis market. To back their case, the plaintiffs presented the report and testimony of Leisel M. Fox, Ph.D.

"Dr. Fox’s report attempts to calculate a total amount of damages for each plaintiff by multiplying the plaintiff’s average hourly rate by the number of hours he or she worked during the class period," Ross wrote in the order.

The order states Fox looked at four sources of data for the calculations, including a questionnaire.

Steak N Shake didn’t want Fox’s testimony to be included as it said the calculations are "based on unreliable sources," the order states. It added that the questionnaires and surveys Fox used might not be completely accurate.

"It argues that the questionnaires are unscientific surveys which Dr. Fox neither helped prepare nor reviewed and that she did not verify the accuracy of the responses. In addition, (Steak N Shake) argues that Dr. Fox failed to account for biases inherent in the surveys, further eroding the reliability of the source material."

Steak N Shake also argued Fox's report is "simple arithmetic the jury is capable of doing itself," the ruling states.

"The court believes that Dr. Fox’s report presents a convenient and less cumbersome way to assess the necessary calculations, and that it would be of significant assistance to the jury," Ross wrote.

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