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Georges v. Dominion Payroll Services, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

May 4, 2018



          M. Hannah Lauck United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Dominion Payroll Services, LLC's ("Dominion") Motion to Strike Plaintiffs Supplementary Expert Designation (the "Motion to Strike"). (ECF No. 39.) Plaintiff Angela Georges responded, (ECF No. 52), and Dominion replied, (ECF No. 56). The Court heard oral argument on May 3, 2018. Neither party chose to call any witnesses. Accordingly, the matter is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion to Strike.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background [1]

         Georges filed her Complaint against Dominion on September 19, 2016. (ECF No. 1.) Georges's Complaint alleges one count: "Violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act [the 'ADEA']."[2] (Compl. 5, ECF No. 1.) Georges asserts membership in the class of people protected by the ADEA because she is over forty years old. She contends that Dominion wrongfully terminated her by intentionally discriminating against her on the basis of age. Georges claims to have suffered damages, including embarrassment, inconvenience, humiliation, severe mental anguish, pain, suffering, loss of income, litigation expenses, consequential damages, and statutory damages.

         Dominion filed a Motion to Dismiss, contending that Georges failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, which the Court denied. The Court held an Initial Pretrial Conference and set the case for a three-day jury trial to begin May 1, 2018. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(B), [3] and as required by the Initial Pretrial Order, Georges filed an expert witness designation on December 29, 2018.

         On February 2, 2018, Georges filed a Motion for Extension of Time to File Expert Disclosure (the "Motion for Extension"), seeking "an extension of thirty (30) days in which to file another [e]xpert [disclosure naming another expert to testify at trial and providing an expert report in accordance with Rule 26(a)(2)(B)" because her original expert "had suffered a recent heart attack, was still in serious medical condition, and will be unable to participate further in this case." (Mot. Extension 1-2, ECF No. 33.) Dominion opposed the Motion for Extension, arguing in part that granting the Motion for Extension would be futile because "the subject matter of the disclosure is improper under [federal law governing expert testimony]." (Resp. Mot. Extension 1, ECF No. 35.)

         On March 2, 2018, the Court heard argument on the Motion for Extension. Despite noting that Dominion's futility argument was well-taken, the Court granted Georges until close of business March 9, 2018, to file a supplemental expert disclosure. The Court admonished Georges that her supplemental expert disclosure must conform to the subject matter of her initial expert disclosure so as not to unfairly prejudice Dominion. The Court also extended the parties' deadlines to file motions for summary judgment and motions challenging expert designations until March 16, 2018.

         On March 9, 2018, Georges filed her Supplemental Expert Designation designating Dr. Deb Cohen, Human Resource Consultant, as an expert in the field of "[e]mployment, benefit plans, and human resource management." (Suppl. Expert Designation 2, ECF No. 38.) Georges states that she expects Dr. Cohen to "testify generally, based on her background, training, expertise, review of documents obtained by counsel and through discovery, about the industry standards and practices with regard to Defendant's lack of compliance with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)." (Id.) On March 16, 2018, Dominion timely filed the Motion to Strike.

         II. Analysis: The Motion to Strike

         Dominion challenges Georges's designation of Dr. Cohen as an expert, arguing that Dr. Cohen's testimony should not be allowed because it: (1) fails to "meet the standards for allowable expert testimony under [the federal rules]"; (2) "is unnecessary to assist the jury and would create confusion"; and, (3) "includes matters outside of Dr. Cohen's personal knowledge." (Mot. Strike 1, ECF No. 39.) Georges counters that Dr. Cohen's proposed testimony is sufficiently helpful, "based on sufficient facts, " and "the product of reliable principles----- applied to the facts in this case." (Resp. Mot. Strike 4, ECF No. 52.) Georges further contends that Dr. Cohen's proposed testimony would not confuse the jury and does not require personal knowledge because expert testimony need not be based on personal knowledge.

         The Court finds that, even assuming Dr. Cohen is an expert in the field, her proposed testimony is inadmissible because: (1) Dr. Cohen's lack of articulated reliable principles and methods in reaching her conclusions renders her expert testimony inadmissible; and, (2) Dr. Cohen's expert testimony amounts to impermissible legal conclusions that are not helpful to the jury.

         A. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 "imposes a special obligation upon a trial judge to 'ensure that any and all [expert] testimony ... is not only relevant, but reliable.'" Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 147 (1999) (quoting Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993) (second alteration in original)). "'There are many different kinds of experts, and many different kinds of expertise.' The fact that a proposed witness is an expert in one area, does not ipso facto qualify him [or her] to testify as an expert in all related areas." Shreve v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 166 F.Supp.2d 378, 391 (D. Md. 2001) (quoting Kumho Tire, 526 U.S. at 150).

         Rule 702 provides:

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 ...

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