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Haynes v. Parker

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

March 16, 2017

TONKA HAYNES #338440
v.
LT. CLARENCE PARKER, ET AL.

          ORDER

          ERIN WILDER-DOOMES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Daubert/Kumho Hearing to Determine Admissibility of Expert Witness (R. Doc. 68) and Motions in Limine (R. Doc. 90), pursuant to which Plaintiff seeks various forms of relief that the Court will address in sequence. These motions are opposed.

         Pro se Plaintiff, an inmate confined at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (“LSP”), Angola, Louisiana, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Lt. Clarence Parker, Capt. Gary Aymond and Sgt. Frye, complaining that Defendants violated his constitutional rights on September 7, 2012, in several respects, including through the use of excessive force on that date. The Court has previously granted partial summary judgment to Defendants, see R. Docs. 39 and 40, dismissing all of Plaintiff's claims except his claim of excessive force asserted against Defendant Clarence Parker in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In this regard, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Parker sprayed a large amount of chemical agent into plaintiff's eyes and face on that date while Plaintiff was confined in a cell, was restrained in handcuffs, was complying with Defendant Parker's commands, and was neither causing a disturbance nor offering any other provocation or justification for Defendant's use of force. Defendant Parker has asserted, in contrasting response to Plaintiff's allegations, that the use of chemical agent against Plaintiff on the referenced date was justified because Plaintiff was disobeying repeated commands to come to the bars of the cell to allow himself to be restrained.

         I. Daubert/Kumho Evaluation Of Admissibility Of Expert Witnesses

         Initially, Plaintiff challenges the admissibility of the opinion testimony of Defendant's expert, Kerry Najolia, [1] and requests a hearing relative to the admission of this expert's testimony at trial in accordance with Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceutical, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993) and Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999). Plaintiff challenges Najolia's testimony as being based entirely upon conjecture and as unreliable because not based on any personal knowledge of the pertinent events. Plaintiff asserts that Najolia's report merely recites and accepts as true Defendant's self-serving version of the facts and, upon doing so, expresses an unreliable opinion that Defendant's actions were reasonable and justified under the circumstances, without substantive analysis or scientific basis or methodology.

         Pursuant to Fed.R.Evid. 702:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case. Pursuant to its express terms, Rule 702 does not render all expert testimony admissible. United States v. Scavo, 593 F.2d 837, 844 (8th Cir. 1979). Further, even if the proposed expert testimony satisfies each of the elements set forth in the Rule, the testimony may still be excluded pursuant to the discretionary provisions of Fed R. Evid. 403, which allow a Court to “exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.”

When a Daubert challenge is made to the testimony of a proposed expert, a district court may, but is not required, to hold a hearing at which the proffered opinion may be challenged. Carlson v. Bioremedi Therapeutic Systems, Inc., 822 F.3d 194, 201 (5th Cir. 2016). When a hearing is not held, “a district court must still perform its gatekeeping function by performing some type of Daubert inquiry.” Id. “At a minimum, a district court must create a record of its Daubert inquiry and ‘articulate its basis for admitting [or denying] expert testimony.'” Id.

         The role of the trial court is to serve as the gatekeeper for expert testimony by making a determination whether the expert opinion is reliable. As the Fifth Circuit has explained:

[W]hen expert testimony is offered, the trial judge must perform a screening function to ensure that the expert's opinion is reliable and relevant to the facts at issue in the case. Daubert went on to make “general observations” intended to guide a district court's evaluation of scientific evidence. The nonexclusive list includes “whether [a theory or technique] can be (and has been) tested, ” whether it “has been subjected to peer review and publication, ” the “known or potential rate of error, ” and the “existence ...

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