On July 21, 2014, the Delaware Superior Court (Judge Young) ruled in Dippold Marble & Granite, Inc. v. Harleysville Mutual Insurance Company (No. K12C-09-021) that "because the owner of personalty may testify as to its value, Plaintiff's failure to name an outside expert is not fatal."  The full opinion can be found here.

The Plaintiff, Dippold, filed suit against its insurance company, Harleysville, seeking to recover approximately $91,000 for damage to personal property stored in a rental unit in New Castle, Delaware.  To support this damages figure, Plaintiff produced a spreadsheet identifying the allegedly damaged property and the replacement cost for each item.  However, Plaintiff did not retain a damages expert.  After the deadline for identifying experts had passed, Harleysville moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claim due to Plaintiff's failure to produce an expert opinion on damages.

The Court denied Harleysville's motion to dismiss.  Citing Ligon v. Brooks, 196 A. 200 (Del. Super. 1937), the Court explained that a "record owner...of personal property is qualified by law to testify to the value of such property."  The Court further explained that a property owner's familiarity with the property's value "is, of course, subject to cross examination."

In sum, the bottom line is this:  In a suit to recover the value of damaged property, it may not be necessary for the plaintiff to retain an expert to opine on the value of the property.  However, while a plaintiff's failure to produce an expert report in such cases may not be fatal, it is almost always advisable to retain an expert to opine on such matters.

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