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Paine v. Johnson

February 25, 2010

KATHLEEN PAINE, AS GUARDIAN OF THE ESTATE OF CHRISTINA ROSE EILMAN, A DISABLED PERSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OFFICER JEFFREY JOHNSON, OFFICER, RICHARD CASON, OFFICER ROSENDO MORENO, LIEUTENANT CARSON EARNEST, SERGEANT DAVID BERGLIND, DETENTION AIDE SHARON STOKES, OFFICER TERESA WILLIAMS, DETENTION AIDE CYNTHIA HUDSON, DETENTION AIDE CATONIA QUINN, OFFICER DEBORAH MABERY, OFFICER PAMELA SMITH, OFFICER BENITA MILLER, OFFICER PAULINE HEARD, AND CITY OF CHICAGO, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Kathleen Paine ("Paine"), as Guardian of the Estate of Christina Rose Eilman ("Eilman"), filed this suit against the City of Chicago and various members of the Chicago Police Department (collectively, "Defendants"), alleging violations of Eilman's constitutional rights and violations of federal and Illinois law. As more fully set forth in this Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order dated February 22, 2010, Paine brings this suit on behalf of Eilman, her daughter, for injuries that Eilman incurred after the Chicago Police Department released her from custody. Paine has now moved to exclude all or parts of the proposed testimony of eight expert witnesses. Defendants have moved to exclude all or parts of the proposed testimony of seven expert witnesses.

For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Omnibus Motion to Exclude Certain Expert Testimony is denied as to the expert testimony of Dr. Robert Sampson.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The admissibility of expert testimony is governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 702 ("Rule 702") and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993) and its progeny. See Ervin v. Johnson & Johnson, Inc., 492 F.3d 901, 904 (7th Cir. 2007). Rule 702 states: "If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise." The Seventh Circuit has developed a three-step admissibility analysis for expert testimony under Rule 702 and Daubert. See Ervin, 492 F.3d at 904. First, "the witness must be qualified 'as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education.'" Id. (quoting Fed.R.Evid. 702). Second, "the expert's reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony must be scientifically reliable." Id. (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592-93). Courts are, however, granted "broad latitude when [they] decide[] how to determine reliability." Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S 137, 142 (1999). Finally, the expert's testimony must be relevant, or "assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue." Ervin, 492 F.3d at 904.

DISCUSSION

I. Defendants' Motion to Bar the Expert Testimony of Dr. Robert Sampson

Dr. Robert Sampson is an expert criminologist who opines that it was manifestly foreseeable that Eilman's personal characteristics and the characteristics of the neighborhood into which she was released would combine to put her at an increased risk of personal harm. Defendants argue that his opinions are unreliable because they were not reached via a proper methodology, that they are irrelevant to the determinative issues in this case, and that they should not be admitted because Sampson's testimony would confuse and mislead the jury and be unfairly prejudicial.

A. Qualifications

Defendants do not challenge Sampson's qualifications to testify as a sociological expert. According to his "Biographical Sketch," Sampson is currently the Chairman of the Department of Sociology at Harvard University. (See R. 573, Ex. F, Biographical Sketch of Robert J. Sampson, Ph.D.) He has several decades of experience in the fields of sociology and criminology, and an extensive list of relevant scholarly publications. (See id.) The Court accordingly finds him qualified on the basis of his education and extensive experience to offer expert testimony on sociological issues. See Reilly v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield United of Wisc., 846 F.2d 416, 421 (7th Cir. 1988) (reviewing experts' curricula vitae in order to support an unchallenged finding that the experts were qualified in their fields).

B. Methodology

Defendants challenge the methodology by which Sampson reached his opinions on four grounds: 1) that his opinions are not based on sufficient facts or data; 2) that his opinions rely on untested and untestable theories; 3) that the standards applied in Sampson's Report are entirely different from those used in his regular professional work; and 4) that his opinions extend into areas where he is not an expert and therefore rest upon an unreliable foundation.

1. Foundation and Basis of Opinions

With respect to their challenge to the underlying basis for Sampson's opinions, Defendants are apparently challenging the factual basis for Sampson's conclusion that Eilman was at an increased risk of harm due to her personal characteristics. They make no argument concerning the basis for his conclusions regarding the characteristics of the neighborhood into which Eilman was released. In support of their challenge, Defendants primarily rely upon the argument that Sampson's identified individual risk factors are at odds with the data collected in the National Crime Victimization Survey ("NCVS"), which Sampson described during his deposition as "a high-quality data set." (See R. 610, Ex. C, Deposition Testimony of Robert Sampson, at 146.) (hereinafter "Sampson Dep."). This particular challenge would go to the weight of Sampson's testimony, and not to its admissibility. The mere fact that Sampson did not rely upon Defendants' preferred data set, even if that data set is one he admits to be reliable and respected, does not mean that the materials upon which he did rely were insufficient to support his conclusion. Defendants attempt to brush aside the materials upon which did Sampson rely by erroneously stating in their Motion that Sampson "did no research about the facts of the case other than reading newspaper reports and facts sent to him by" Paine's counsel. (R. 573 at 2.) However, Defendants were aware from their ...


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