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Fobbs v. Davis

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

June 12, 2015

RAYMOND C. FOBBS
v.
MAJOR DANIEL DAVIS; CAPTAIN JOHN SANDERS; SERGEANT MAYHALL, DR. MOMAH TOBE

STEPHEN C. RIEDLINGER MAGISTRATE JUDGE

RULING AND ORDER ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE

JUDGE JOHN W. deGRAVELLES UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

Before the Court are the following pretrial motions: (1) Plaintiff’s Motion in Limine to Exclude Certain Opinions of Dr. Hines (Doc. 122); (2) Plaintiff’s Motion In Limine to Exclude Opinion to Be Offered by Dr. Roundtree as an Expert (Doc 123); (3) Plaintiff’s Motion in Limine to Exclude Defense Exhibits and Witnesses (Doc. 132) and (4) Defendants’ Motion in Limine (Doc. 151). The Court has carefully reviewed these motions and supporting memorandum (Docs. 122-1, 123-1, 134-1 and 151-1), the opposing briefs (Docs. 126, 125, 136 and 165), the reply memoranda (Docs. 137, 139, 171), and Defendants’ response to Plaintiff’s Reply (Doc. 145). The Court issues the following rulings.

I. Plaintiff’s Motion in Limine to Exclude Certain Opinions of Dr. Hines (Doc. 122)

Plaintiff seeks to exclude the following two specific statements made by Defendants’ expert pulmonologist, William H. Hines, M.D.: “It would be my opinion that the exposure to mace was no worse than him smoking cigarettes consistently…The plaintiff, in my opinion, has little basis for his case.” (Doc. 122-2, p. 2).

As to the first statement, the Court denies Plaintiff’s motion. Dr. Hines has reviewed Plaintiff’s medical records and is an experienced pulmonologist who has treated many kinds of lung related issues. The Court finds that Plaintiff’s objections go more to the weight than the admissibility of the evidence.

The Court grants Plaintiff’s motion to exclude the second statement. First, it is not at all clear what Dr. Hines is saying when he states that Plaintiff has “little basis for his case.” If he is commenting on the liability issues, his testimony clearly goes far beyond any possible expertise he might possess. If he is talking about Plaintiff’s ability to prove medical causation, his opinion is far too broad and is inadmissible.

Fed.R.Evid. 704 provides that “[a]n opinion is not objectionable just because it embraces an ultimate issue.” However, the Fifth Circuit has “repeatedly held that this rule does not allow an expert to render conclusions of law.” Snap-Drape, Inc. v. C.I.R., 98 F.2d 194, 198 (5th Cir. 1996); See also Owen v. Kerr-McGee Corp., 698 F.2d 236, 240 (5th Cir. 1983).

“The task of separating impermissible questions which call for overbroad or legal responses from permissible questions is not a facile one.” Owen, 698 F.2d at 240. In Owen, the Fifth Circuit explained:

The example given in the Advisory Committee Notes to Rule 704 is helpful. The question “Did T have capacity to make a will?” should be excluded. The question “Did T have sufficient mental capacity to know the nature and extent of his property and the natural objects of this bounty and [*18] to formulate a rational scheme of distribution?” is permissible. The first question is phrased in such broad terms that it could as readily elicit a legal as well as a fact based response. A direct response, whether it be negative or affirmative, would supply the jury with no information other than the expert’s view of how its verdict should read. Moreover, allowing an expert to give his opinion on the legal conclusions to be drawn from the evidence both invades the court’s province and is irrelevant.

Id. See also Louisiana Health Care Self Ins. Fund v. United States, No. CIV.A. 12-766, 2014 WL 4828940, at *7 (M.D. La. Sept. 29, 2014) (same).

Accordingly, the Court grants in part and denies in part Plaintiff’s motion. Dr. Hines will be allowed to opine that Plaintiff’s exposure to mace was no worse than his consistent smoking. He will not be allowed to testify that Plaintiff’s case has “little or no basis” or words to that effect.

II. Plaintiff’s Motion In Limine to Exclude Opinion to Be Offered by Dr. Roundtree as an Expert (Doc. 123)

Plaintiff seeks to exclude the opinion of Dr. Roundtree that Plaintiff’s “chronic exposure duty status [] does not prevent a single exposure to chemical agents used by mace by DOC Security.” Plaintiff argues that the report in which this opinion is given is deficient and there is inadequate support for the opinion. The Court has examined the report (Doc. 123-2, p. 1 as supplemented by Doc. 125-1) along with Dr. Roundtree’s CV and the other documents and testimony ...


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