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Andrews v. Woody

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

May 31, 2018

BENJAMIN M. ANDREWS, Administrator of the estate of Zachary Tuggle, Plaintiff,
v.
SHERIFF C.T. WOODY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          M. Hannah Lauck United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on three motions filed by Plaintiff Benjamin M. Andrews, Administrator of the Estate of Zachary Tuggle ("Andrews"): (1) Andrews's Motion to Exclude Opinions of Jack Daniel, M.D. (the "Motion to Exclude Dr. Daniel"), (ECF No. 69); (2) Andrews's Motion to Exclude Imp[ro]per Medical Standard of Care and Proposed Causation Opinions of Nurse Allison Rego Ernest (the "Motion to Exclude Nurse Ernest"), (ECF No. 73); and, (3) Andrews's Motion to Exclude Opinions of William J. Brady, M.D. (the "Motion to Exclude Dr. Brady"), (ECF No. 71), (collectively, the "Motions to Exclude"). Defendants Naphcare, Inc., Demetrice Smith, Tracy Turner, Gwen Drake, Cecelia Faison, and Khairul Emran (collectively, "Defendants") responded to all three motions, (ECF Nos. 82, 83, 84), and Andrews replied, (ECF Nos. 85, 86, 87).

         The Court heard oral argument on May 30, 2018. Neither party chose to call any witnesses. Accordingly, the matters are ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the Court will: (1) grant the Motion to Exclude Dr. Daniel; (2) grant the Motion to Exclude Dr. Brady; and, (3) grant the Motion to Exclude Nurse Ernest.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background[1]

         The action before the Court arises from Zachary Tuggle's incarceration at the Richmond City Justice Center ("RCJC") awaiting trial. Tuggle, who had a diagnosed seizure disorder at the time he entered the RCJC, experienced a fatal seizure while incarcerated there. Andrews thereafter filed a Complaint against various defendants alleging, on behalf of Tuggle's estate, violations of the Fourteenth Amendment, [2] state law gross negligence, and medical negligence. After Defendant Sheriff C.T. Woody filed a Motion to Dismiss, Andrews filed his Amended Complaint. The Court held an Initial Pretrial Conference and scheduled a jury trial to begin on May 9, 2018.

         On March 5, 2018, upon motion by the parties, the Court dismissed Sheriff C.T. Woody and Charles Armstrong as defendants from this action. Only Defendants remain. After granting several joint motions for extensions of time, which ultimately impacted the scheduled trial date, the Court continued the jury trial and set a hearing date and a briefing schedule for dispositive and evidentiary motions.

         The following causes of action, articulated in the Amended Complaint, remain:

COUNT IV: Medical Negligence Claim against Demetrice Smith, Tracy Turner, Gwen Drake, Cecelia Faison, and Khairul Emran;
COUNT V: Vicarious Liability Claim against Naphcare, Inc., based on the negligence of Demetrice Smith, Tracy Turner, Gwen Drake, Cecelia Faison, and Khairul Emran; and,
COUNT VI: Section 1983 Claim against Demetrice Smith, Tracy Turner, Gwen Drake, Cecelia Faison, and Khairul Emran for Deliberate Indifference to Tuggle's Serious Medical Needs.

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(B), [3] and as required by the Initial Pretrial Order, Defendants filed their expert witness designation on March 22, 2018, designating four expert witnesses. (ECF No. 67.) On April 9, 2018, Andrews timely filed the Motions to Exclude.

         II. 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. MerrellDow 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 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.

Fed. R. Evid. 702. Rule 702's requirement "that the evidence or testimony '[help] the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue'" goes primarily to relevance. Daubert, 509 U.S. at 591 (quoting Fed.R.Evid. 702) (noting that expert testimony must be relevant).

         Although experiential testimony does not rely on the scientific method, "this does not lead to a conclusion that 'experience alone-or experience in conjunction with other knowledge, skill, training or education-may not provide a sufficient foundation for expert testimony. To the contrary, the text of Rule 702 expressly contemplates that an expert may be qualified on the basis of experience.'" United States v. Wilson, 484 F.3d 267, 274 (4th Cir. 2007) (quoting Fed.R.Evid. 702 advisory committee's note to 2000 amendment). Thus, although "a district court's task in examining the reliability of experiential expert testimony is therefore somewhat more opaque, " to be qualified under Rule 702, "an experiential expert witness [must] 'explain how [his or her] experience leads to the conclusion reached, why [his or her] experience is a sufficient basis for the opinion, and how [his or her] experience is reliably applied to the facts.'" Id. (quoting Fed.R.Evid. 702 advisory committee's note to 2000 amendment).

         In determining whether proffered expert testimony is sufficiently reliable so as to assist the trier of fact, Daubert suggests that courts consider several non-dispositive factors: (1) whether the expert's methodology can be tested; (2) whether the theory or technique has been subjected to peer review and publication; (3) the known or potential rate of error; and, (4) whether the theory or technique has gained general acceptance within the relevant scientific community. Daubert, 509 U.S. at 593-94. This analysis applies to all proffered specialized knowledge, not solely scientific expert testimony. Kumho Tire, 526 U.S. at 141. "Under [Federal Rule of Evidence] 104(a), [4] the proponent of the expert testimony must establish the admissibility of the testimony by a preponderance of the evidence." Lee v. City of Richmond, No. 3:12cv471, 2014 WL 5092715, at *2 n.2 (E.D. Va. Sept. 30, 2014).

         III. Analysis: The Court Will Exclude the Opinion Testimony of Dr. Daniel

         Dr. Daniel's report and opinions must be excluded because he articulates no principles or methods on which he relied to reach his conclusions, rendering his report noncompliant with Rule 26. The failure to articulate any principles or methods also makes his opinions unreliable and excludable under Rule 702(c) and (d). Further, Dr. Daniel seeks to offer testimony on the weight of the evidence, making his opinions unhelpful, irrelevant, and potentially confusing, and thus excludable under Rule 702(a) and Rule 403. Defendants' contentions otherwise do not prevail.[5] For the reasons outlined below, the Court will grant Andrews's Motion to Exclude Dr. Daniel.

         A. Dr. Daniel's Report Fails to Comply with Rule 26

         As an initial matter, the Court could exclude Dr. Daniel's testimony because, in violation of the federal rules, the expert report Defendants submitted fails-on its face-to comply in any meaningful way with the standards of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(B). Dr. Daniel's report offers conclusions in three paragraphs. His report contains simply "conclusions offered without any explanation as to [his] bases or reasoning. That, of course, runs afoul of the provisions of [Rule] 26(a)(2)(B)." Lee, 2014 WL 5092715, at *11, n.13.

         In three paragraphs of his report, Dr. Daniel offers the following opinions:

(1) "Mr. Tuggle's death is consistent with cardiac arrest secondary to respiratory arrest as a result of airway obstruction from aspiration of food into the lower airway."
(2) "[T]here is no evidence either grossly or microscopically in the lungs or airways to suggest that there was any chemical exposure from ammonia to these tissues."
(3) "The edema ... in [Tuggle's] lungs is readily consistent with aspiration of food/emesis."
(4) "There is no evidence to suggest that there was ever any large amount of blood present as is described in the EMS report authored by Samantha Bako
(5) "[A]lthough other eyewitnesses described the presence of blood, the amount of blood is only described as a large volume by paramedic Bako."
(6) "[B]ased on the pathology, there is no indication of any source of a large volume of blood. The GI tract is free of any sources of bleeding or significant accumulations of blood, and the lungs do not show evidence of bleeding. The only other place that could have been a blood source is the oral-pharynx or nose, and no hemorrhagic lesions were identified at autopsy."
(7) "[T]he likely explanation for the blood is either that the oral-pharynx and/or naso-pharynx may have been injured during resuscitative efforts (to include insertion of the King airway or previous intubation efforts), or from an impact of [Tuggle's] face with a hard surface."
(8) "Although it is unclear where the blood came from, the evidence does not establish that a large volume of ...

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