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Doe v. Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center Commission

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division

December 13, 2018

JOHN DOE, by and through his next friend, NELSON LOPEZ, on behalf of himself and all persons similarly situated, Plaintiffs,


          Elizabeth K. Dillon, United States District Judge

         I. BACKGROUND

         Doe 4 and the class he represents bring this action against Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center Commission (Commission). The members of the class (the Detainees) are Latino immigrant youths who are or may be confined in the future at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center (the Center). (Second Am. Compl. 1-2; Dkt. No. 68.) Doe 4 is a seventeen-year-old Honduran citizen who came to the United States to seek protection as a refugee. (Id. at 3.) Doe 4 and the Detainees who came into the United States without proper authorization are detained at the Center, per the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). (Id. at 1.) The Center holds both unaccompanied alien children (UAC) and United States citizens who have been adjudicated as juvenile delinquents. (Id. at 6.)

         The Detainees allege that they are subjected to unconstitutional conditions and have consequently engaged in self-harm and suffered abuse. (Id. at 1-2.) They bring this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging excessive use of force, failure to provide adequate mental health services, and discrimination on the bases of race and national origin.[1] (Id. at 22-28.)

         Plaintiffs seek declaratory and permanent injunctive relief. Specifically, they ask that the court declare the Commission's acts and omissions unconstitutional, that the Commission be ordered to cease its alleged unconstitutional policies and practices, and that the Commission be ordered to provide class members with care that satisfies constitutional standards. (Id. at 2, 29.)


         A. Motions to Exclude Experts

          Defendant has filed three motions in which it seeks to exclude the testimony and/or reports of opposing experts. The motions to exclude are based on an alleged lack of qualifications of a given expert or on assertions that the testimony is inadmissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and the standards established in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993).

         Rule 702 governs the admissibility of expert testimony. It states:

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.

         Under Rule 702, a district court acts as gatekeeper to ensure that “any and all scientific testimony or evidence admitted is not only relevant, but reliable.” Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., 509 U.S. 579, 588 (1993). The proponent of the testimony must establish its admissibility by a preponderance of proof, although it need not prove its expert's theory is correct. Cooper v. Smith & Nephew, Inc., 259 F.3d 194, 199 (4th Cir. 2001); Maryland Cas. Co. v. Therm-O-Disc, Inc., 137 F.3d 780, 783 (4th Cir. 1998).

         The Fourth Circuit has explained the Daubert standard as a “two-step gatekeeping function” required of trial courts. First, the trial court must ask whether proffered scientific evidence is valid and reliable. United States v. Barnette, 211 F.3d 803, 815 (4th Cir. 2000). The second question is whether the evidence will help the trier of fact, which is generally a question of relevance, or “fit”: assuming the evidence is reliable, will it “assist the trier of fact to understand or determine a fact in issue.” Maryland Cas. Co., 137 F.3d at 784 (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592).

         1. Defendant's Motion in Limine to Exclude Expert Testimony of Paul Diver, Ph.D.

         Defendant first moves to exclude the report and testimony of Dr. Paul Diver. Dr. Diver is a senior managing consultant with experience teaching and applying statistical techniques in a wide variety of industries. Plaintiffs have retained Dr. Diver as an independent statistical expert in this case. In his report, he purports to analyze incidents at the Center involving class members spending time in seclusion and the use of force against class members, although it appears non-class members may be included. He analyzes these incidents before and after the defendant implemented a change in its behavioral management program, and he also analyzes when these incidents occurred against class members who were exhibiting self-injurious behavior. (Report of Dr. Diver, Ex. 2, Dkt. No. 104-2.) To create his report, Dr. Diver reviewed reports and documents related to the relevant incidents and compared this data against the defendant's internal standards regarding force and restraints, the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) standard, and the American Medical Association (AMA) standard. (Id. at 3.)

         Defendant argues that Dr. Diver's expert testimony should be excluded for three reasons: his analysis is 1) irrelevant under Federal Rule of Evidence 702(a), 2) lacks an adequate factual foundation under Rule 702(b), and 3) is fundamentally flawed and unreliable under Rule 702(c).

         First, defendant argues that Dr. Diver's analysis is irrelevant because, although the data he relied on pertained to 131 UACs, only three of those UACs were residents at the Center when the class was certified. Further, defendant asserts that the timeframe employed by Dr. Diver is irrelevant because it spanned from June 2015 to May 2018, while plaintiffs defined the relevant time period in their discovery requests as October 4, 2015, to May 1, 2018. Last, because Dr. Diver did not consider all the incidents that did not lead to force or confinement, he improperly limited his relied-upon data. Defendant suggests, then, that the report ...

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