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Collins v. Sheppard

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Albany Division

October 14, 2014

JONATHAN COLLINS, Plaintiff,
v.
DEMETRIUS SHEPPARD et al., Defendants.

ORDER

W. LOUIS SANDS, District Judge.

Before the Court are Plaintiffs Motions to disallow two of Defendant's Expert Witnesses, Dr. Stephanie S. Martin and Robert Cannon (Docs. 40, 44) and Defendant Sheppard's Motion to Exclude the Expert Testimony of David Frisby (Doc. 46). All responses and replies have been filed with regard to these motions, and the Court therefore finds these motions are ripe for review. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs Motion to Exclude Expert Testimony of Dr. Stephanie S. Martin (Doc. 40) is GRANTED-IN-PART and DENIEIN-PART and Plaintiffs Motion to Exclude Expert Testimony of Robert Cannon (Doc. 44) is GRANTED-IN-PART and DENIED-IN-PART. Defendant's Motion to Exclude Expert Testimony of David Frisby (Doc. 46) is GRANTED-IN-PART and DENIEIN-PART.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This is a Section 1983 lawsuit originally brought against four officers for violating Plaintiffs Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. On March 22, 2011, the date of the alleged incident, Plaintiff was in custody at the Sumter Youth Development Campus, a juvenile detention facility. Plaintiff alleges his rights were violated when his arm was broken while officers were attempting to restrain and physically force him to go to his room for a "head count."

On June 4, 2014, the Court granted the Parties' Consent Motion to Dismiss Defendants Piortt, Gordon, and Ingle, leaving Defendant Sheppard as the remaining Defendant. (Doc. 37). The Parties subsequently filed the Motions to Exclude currently before the Court. On July 14, 2014, Defendant Sheppard filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on all of Plaintiffs claims, which remains pending and will be addressed by a further order from the Court. (Doc. 42).

DISCUSSION

I. Plaintiff's Motion to Exclude Expert Testimony of Dr. Stephanie S. Martin

Plaintiff has moved to exclude the expert testimony of Defendant's witness Dr. Stephanie S. Martin. (Doc. 40). Plaintiff moves to disallow Dr. Martin's testimony insofar as she opines on the cause of Plaintiffs broken humerus bone or, in the alternative, entirely. ( Id. at 1). Plaintiff asserts that Dr. Martin's opinion testimony is "not based upon sufficient facts or data, is not the product of reliable principles and methods, and is not the result of applying the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case." ( Id. ). Specifically, Plaintiff challenges Dr. Martin's opinions that if Plaintiffs arm had been lifted and twisted above his head, his shoulder would have dislocated rather than his humerus bone breaking and that Plaintiffs arm broke as a result of his resistance. ( Id. at 4). Plaintiff argues that Dr. Martin reviewed no materials other than Plaintiffs medical record and deposition and the video of the incident prior to providing her opinion and that she has no experience in treating intentionally inflicted humerus fracture. ( Id. at 5). Plaintiff further argues that Dr. Martin's conclusion that Plaintiffs injury resulted from a combination of the officer's raising his arm and Plaintiffs resistance, which Dr. Martin stated was based on physics, is inadmissible because Dr. Martin is not a physics expert. ( Id. at 6 (citing Martin Depo. at 11, 22-23)).

The Court holds that Dr. Martin's testimony is admissible under Daubert case law and the Federal Rules of Evidence. Because Dr. Martin's opinion has a sufficient factual basis, Defendants' arguments go to the weight of her testimony, not its admissibility.

Federal Rule of Evidence 702 sets the standard for admissibility of expert opinions:

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. This rule contemplates that the Court will act as a gatekeeper to the admission of scientific evidence. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993). In that function, the Court must engage in a three-part inquiry, as follows:

(1) the expert is qualified to testify competently regarding the matters he intends to address; (2) the methodology by which the expert reaches his conclusions is sufficiently reliable as determined by the sort of inquiry mandated in Daubert; and (3) the testimony assists the trier of fact, through the application of scientific, ...

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