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Dotson v. Price

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 13, 2019

DAVID H. DOTSON, Plaintiff
v.
JOHN PRICE, ET AL., Defendants

         SECTION: “E” (3)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          SUSIE MORGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a motion in limine to limit testimony of Plaintiff's expert witness Gregory M. Stewart, M.D., filed by Defendant Atlantic Specialty Insurance Co. (“Atlantic”).[1] Plaintiff opposes the motion as to Dr. Stewart's testimony regarding Plaintiff's physical and occupational limitations, but not as to Dr. Stewart's testimony regarding the labor market. For the following reasons, the Court DENIES IN PART Defendant's motion as to Dr. Stewart's testimony regarding Plaintiff's physical and occupational limitations, and GRANTS IN PART as unopposed Dr. Stewart's testimony regarding the labor market.

         BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of a January 19, 2015 auto accident between Dotson and John Price.[2] Dotson seeks to recover damages resulting from personal injuries he alleges he sustained in the accident.

         On January 19, 2016, Dotson filed the instant suit against John Price and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company.[3] Progressive Casualty Insurance Company, Dotson's underinsured motorist insurer, was joined to the suit on September 6, 2017.[4] Atlantic was named as an additional Defendant on November 3, 2o17.[5] The only remaining Defendants are Atlantic and Progressive. Dotson has named as an expert witness Gregory M. Stewart, M.D.[6]

         In his witness list, Dotson states:

Dr. Stewart is expected to testify as to his treatment and care of David Dotson, his original treatment of Mr. Dotson's left shoulder prior to the January 2015 motor vehicle accident, as well as his treatment of Mr. Dotson's left shoulder following the January 2015 motor vehicle accident and ensuing surgery, and the cause of his shoulder pain following the accident. Dr. Stewart may also be asked to opine as to the reasonableness of Mr. Dotson's actions in endeavoring to treat or monitor his ailments. Dr. Stewart may also be asked to opine as to whether or not David Dotson would have been able to return to his employment of any other work following the accident in 2015.[7]

         Atlantic filed the instant motion on April 16, 2019.[8] Atlantic argues Dr. Stewart should be precluded from testifying regarding Dotson's ability to have returned to “any other work” following the accident and that Dr. Stewart's testimony should be limited to the field of medicine pursuant to Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence.[9] Plaintiff opposes the motion as to Dr. Stewart testifying regarding Plaintiff's physical and occupational limitations, but not as to Dr. Stewart testifying regarding the labor market.[10]

         RULE 702 STANDARD

         Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence governs the admissibility of expert witness testimony:

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.[11]

         The United States Supreme Court's decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., [12] provides the analytical framework for determining whether expert testimony is admissible under Rule 702.

         Under Daubert, courts, as “gatekeepers, ” are tasked with making a preliminary assessment of whether expert testimony is both relevant and reliable.[13] The party offering the expert opinion must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the expert's testimony is reliable and relevant.[14]

         The reliability of expert testimony “is determined by assessing whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is scientifically valid.”[15] In Daubert, the Supreme Court enumerated several non-exclusive factors that courts may consider in evaluating the reliability of expert testimony.[16] “These factors are (1) whether the expert's theory can or has been tested, (2) whether the theory has been subject to peer review and publication, (3) the known or potential rate of error of a technique or theory when applied, (4) the existence and maintenance of standards and controls, and (5) the degree to which the technique or theory has been generally accepted in the scientific community.”[17]

         The Supreme Court has cautioned that the reliability analysis must remain flexible: the Daubert factors “may or may not be pertinent in assessing reliability, depending on the nature of the issue, the expert's particular expertise, and the subject of his testimony.”[18] Thus, “not every Daubert factor will be applicable in every situation . . . and a court has discretion to consider other factors it deems relevant.”[19] The district court is offered broad latitude in making expert testimony determinations.[20]

         As a general rule, questions relating to the bases and sources of an expert's opinion affect the weight of the evidence rather than its admissibility and should be left for the finder of fact.[21] “Unless wholly unreliable, the data on which the expert relies goes to the weight and not the admissibility of the expert opinion.”[22] Thus, “[v]igorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence, and careful instruction on the burden of proof are the traditional and appropriate means of attacking shaky but admissible evidence.”[23] The Court is not concerned with whether the opinion is correct but whether the preponderance of the evidence establishes that the opinion is reliable.[24] “It is the role of the adversarial system, not the court, to highlight weak evidence.”[25]

         LAW ...


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