A witness who was a veteran firefighter, licensed master electrician and forensic technician was qualified to give expert opinion on a fire in the Pennsylvania shopping center, a federal appeals court ruling on Friday by denying an insurance claim for a new trial based on his testimony  Mark Beal and his Greensburg, Pennsylvania-based company, Mark & # 39 ;s Maintenance and Repair, were charged with negligence in connection with a fire in December 2012 at Natrona Heights Shopping Plaza that caused "costly and significant" damage, according to Friday's ruling. of the 3rd U.S. District Court of Appeals in Philadelphia in Seneca Insurance Co., a / s / o Wild Blue Management LP v. Mark Beal, d / b / a Mark & # 39 ;s Maintenance and Repair .
As its insurer, New York-based Seneca, a unit of Crum & Forster Holdings Corp, the owner paid Wild Blue & # 39 ;s losses as a result of the fire.
The question at the subsequent trial was whether Mr. Beal had caused the fire by acting negligently y to remove a neon sign according to the decision.
Three experts testified at the trial, including career man Ralph Dolence. In March 201
Seneca claimed that Dolence expert testimony was
"Speculative and lacking evidence" and therefore sought a new trial. The district court denied the insurer's proposal, and the three judges appealed to the court panel confirming the decision.
Mr. Dolence was qualified as an expert witness "because of his knowledge from years of professional experience, which included over 30 years as a fire investigator and 40 years as a licensed electrician," the appellate court ruled.
"At the time of his testimony, Dolence, a qualified forensic expert in 30 states, had served in fire brigades, investigated over 12,000 fires and taught hundreds of classes on fire cause and origin investigations," it said.
His testimony. based on his personal observation as well as his examination of several hundred photographs, videos and other documentation in connection with the fire.
Mr. Dolence "finally testified that the cause of the fire was" indeterminate "because the fire investigation was inappropriate and other causes are not ruled out , "said in the decision.
" Although Dolence's testimony may have differing views on Seneca's exports, the district court found that Seneca had the opportunity to attack the credibility of Dolence's testimony through cross – examination and did so at trial. "
That the jury convicted Mr. Beal was negligent but did not consider that his negligence caused the fire, "does not show that Dolence misled the jury by his testimony," the decision said.
"Rather, this simply indicates that the jury, which weighs the evidence presented by both parties, considered and concluded that Beal's actions or omissions were not the actual cause of the fire," the panel said, denying Seneca's proposal for a new trial or a verdict despite the assessment.
Lawyers in the case could not be reached for comment.