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Tripkovich v. Ramirez

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 22, 2015

TRINITY TRIPKOVICH
v.
JULIO RAMIREZ, ET AL. SECTION

ORDER & REASONS

ELDON E. FALLON, District Judge.

Before the Court are Defendants' Motion to Exclude Testimony on Causation of Plaintiff's Expert, Gerald J. Gianoli, M.D. (Rec. Doc. 50) and Defendants' Motion to Exclude the Expert Report and Testimony of John Theriot as it Relates to his Opinion on Future Loss of Earnings Capacity (Rec. Doc. 51). Having reviewed the parties' briefs and the applicable law, the Court now issues this Order & Reasons.

I. BACKGROUND

This case arises out of a motor vehicle accident that occurred on November 4, 2012 on Interstate 12 in Tangipahoa Parish. Plaintiff alleges that she was traveling on Interstate 12 when Defendant Julio Ramirez struck her from the rear and totaled her vehicle. Plaintiff alleges that Ramirez was operating his vehicle in the course and scope of his employment with Defendant NB Interstate Logistics, LLC. Plaintiffs further allege that Lancer Insurance Company issued automobile liability insurance that was in place at the time of the accident. Plaintiff claims that as a result of the accident she sustained serious and debilitating injuries to her brain and back. She asks to be compensated for past, present, and future pain and suffering, medical expenses, loss of enjoyment, and loss of wages.

Defendants removed the case to this Court pursuant to this Court's diversity jurisdiction. Defendants have now stipulated to liability but dispute damages, and trial is scheduled to proceed on July 6, 2015 solely on the issue of damages.

II. PRESENT MOTIONS

A. Motion to Exclude Testimony on Causation of Plaintiff's Expert, Gerald Gianoli, M.D. (Rec. Doc. 50)

1. Parties' Arguments

The Defendants argue that the Court should exclude Plaintiff's expert Dr. Gerard Gianoli's testimony on medical causation because his failure to review her prior medical records and rule out other causes of injury renders his testimony unreliable pursuant to Fed. Rule Evid. 702 and Daubert. (Rec. Doc. 50). Defendants contend that Plaintiff presented with symptoms of dizziness and nausea prior to her accident. Defendants argue that Plaintiff's medical history presents a myriad of other, potential causes of injury: Plaintiff's head struck a windshield on December 30, 1999 and she was subsequently rendered unconscious; Plaintiff was involved in another car accident on April 27, 2010; Plaintiff had a history of chronic migraines; Plaintiff has suffered from bulimia since she was a freshman in high school; and after the November 2012 accident, Plaintiff went to the emergency room after she had "horsed around" with her boyfriend and was dropped her on her head. (Rec. Doc. 50-1 at 4-5). Defendants thus aver that Dr. Gianoli's analysis that the car accident caused Plaintiff's injuries should therefore be excluded because he failed to review her medical records and rule out these other possible causes of injury. As support for this argument, Defendants maintain that "[t]he Fifth Circuit Court of appeals has stated in medical causation cases that an expert should consider and exclude other possible causes of injury when forming his or her opinion." (Rec. Doc. 50-1 at 10) (citing Viterbo v. Dow Chemical Co., 826 F.2d 420, 423 (5th Cir. 1987); McNabney v. Lab Corp. of America, 153 F.Appx. 293, 295 (5th Cir. 2005)). Defendants also argue that Dr. Gianoli's failure to consider the entirety of her medical records renders his methodology flawed and unreliable. (Rec. Doc. 50 at 10).

Plaintiff opposes the motion and argues that Dr. Gianoli's reliance on Plaintiff's representation of her medical history should not provide a basis for exclusion of his testimony, but rather should affect the weight assigned to that testimony and is proper material for crossexamination. (Rec. Doc. 53 at 3) (citing Amigo Broadcasting, LP v. Spanish Broadcasting System, Inc., 521 F.3d 472, 485 (5th Cir. 2008)). Further, Plaintiff notes that Dr. Gianoli reviewed the prior medical records and testified during his deposition that those records did not change his opinion as to causation. (Rec. Doc. 53 at 5-7).

2. Law and Analysis

Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence governs the admissibility of expert testimony. Rule 702 is in effect a codification of the United States Supreme Court's opinion in Daubert v. Merrel Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993). In Daubert, the Supreme Court held that trial courts should serve as gatekeepers for expert testimony and should not admit such testimony without first determining that the testimony is both "reliable" and "relevant." Id. at 589.

The trial court is the gatekeeper of scientific evidence. Daubert, 509 U.S. at 596. It has a special obligation to ensure that any and all expert testimony meets these standards. Id. Accordingly, it must make a preliminary assessment of whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is scientifically valid and whether the reasoning or methodology can be properly applied to the facts in issue. Id. at 592-93. In making this assessment, the trial court need not take the expert's word for it. Joiner, 522 U.S. at 147. Instead, when expert testimony is demonstrated to be speculative and lacking in scientific validity, trial courts are encouraged to exclude it. Moore, 151 F.3d at 279.

In satisfying its "gatekeeper" duty, the Court will look at the qualifications of the experts and the methodology used in reaching their opinions and will not attempt to determine the accuracy of the conclusion reached by the expert. The validity or ...


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