permitted to inform the jury that the plaintiff's expert
was not board-certified, plaintiff "may show that [the expert]
nevertheless is a qualified psychiatrist.")
The defendants argue next that neither expert should be permitted to
testify as to the condition of juvenile plaintiffs because neither is a
child psychiatrist nor board-certified in that field. This may affect the
weight the jury chooses to give their testimony, but not its
admissibility. The defendants' own expert, Dr. Stephen Robinson,
acknowledged that the treatment and diagnosis of children by
psychiatrists who are not board-certified specialists in child psychiatry
"happens all the time." (Robinson Dep. at 223.) If Drs. Bell and
Williamson are qualified to diagnose and treat children, I see no reason
why they would be unqualified to testify about their diagnostic
conclusions in court.
Defendants next attack the methodology by which Drs. Bell and
Williamson studied the named plaintiffs. Dr. Bell did not interview the
plaintiffs himself. Instead, Dr. Williamson met with the plaintiffs to
collect data, and then collaborated with his superior, Dr. sell, in order
to interpret that data. Such a team approach has been explicitly condoned
by the Seventh Circuit, which held that testimony from a team leader who
did not personally examine the plaintiff was admissible. Walker v. Soo
Line Railroad Co., 208 F.3d 581 (7th Cir. 2000). The court explained, "we
think it is proper for a physician working in [a leadership role] on the
diagnostic and evaluation team to rely on the work of her team members in
forming her opinion." Id. at 588. Psychiatrists as well as other medical
specialists may base their opinions on their colleagues' conclusions
without interviewing litigants themselves. United States v. Lawson,
653 F.2d 299, 302 (7th Cir. 1981). Other courts have consistently reached
the same conclusion. See, e.g., Birdsell v. United States, 346 P.2d 775,
779-80 (5th Cir. 1965).
Defendants also point out that the data here consist largely of
plaintiffs' self-reports as to their feelings and reactions during and
following the incident. It is difficult to imagine how a psychiatric
diagnosis could Lake place if a psychiatrist were not permitted to rely
on a patient's self-reports, as the patient's experience is the focus of
study. At any rate, the Seventh Circuit has stated that a medical expert
witness may base his opinion on a plaintiff's self-report. See Cooper v.
Nelson & Co., 211 F.3d 1008, 1019 (7th Cir. 2000) (holding that a
district court should have allowed medical testimony as to the likely
cause of the plaintiff's injury, even though the experts relied on the
plaintiff's assertions about his medical history and about his chronic
back pain following the incident in forming their opinions).
Defendants argue next that Drs. Bell and Williamson impermissibly rely
on pure speculation and conjecture when they state that the named
plaintiffs are representative of the plaintiff class. But according to his
curriculum vitae, Dr. Bell is president of a large, comprehensive
community mental health center serving residents of Stateway Gardens and
the surrounding South Side neighborhoods. He has published extensively
over the last thirty years on topics concerning the psychiatric health of
inner-city African-Americans. Further, he is Director of Public and
Community Psychiatry at the University of Illinois School of Medicine.
Thus, his opinion that the named plaintiffs are typical members of the
South Side African-American community where he practices is more than
simple speculation. While it is true that each member of the class is a
unique individual who may or may not have responded to the February 22
incident in the same way as the named
plaintiffs, this is true in every
class action. Dr. Bell and his colleague, like any qualified experts, may
answer hypothetical questions about what sequelae are likely to follow
from a given event. Estate of Carey v. Hy-Temp Mfg. Inc., 929 F.2d 1229,
1235 (7th Cir. 1991). If, as the defendants claim, the named plaintiffs
are not fairly representative of the class, that question must be
addressed via the pending motion to decertify the class, not by the
exclusion of expert testimony.
Finally, defendants urge me to find that the testimony of Drs.
Bell and Williamson should be excluded because it would not help
the jury understand the evidence or determine any fact in issue —
in other words, that it is irrelevant. This argument has no merit.
Whether the plaintiffs suffered psychological injury following the
police action is a central question of fact in the case. Drs. Bell
and Williamson plan to testify that, in their professional opinion,
the plaintiffs were injured by the defendants' conduct. Since such
testimony tends to make a face of consequence in the case more or
less probable, it is relevant evidence. Fed.R.Evid. 401.
Defendants' motion to exclude testimony of Dr. Carl C. Bell and Dr.
Johnny Lee Williamson, IV, is DENIED.
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