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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 November 7, 2008, 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 set forth below, Defendants' Omnibus Motion to Exclude Certain Expert Testimony is denied in part and granted in part as to the expert testimony of James L. Kennedy.

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 James L. Kennedy

James L. Kennedy is a career law enforcement officer who is currently the Sheriff of Monroe County, Indiana. Although the format of his expert report makes it somewhat difficult to discern the scope of his expert opinions, he appears to opine that Defendant officers violated a number of CPD General Orders and regulations in their handling of Eilman's detention and that the inconsistencies between the statements of Defendant officers and those of Eilman's fellow detainees "indicate a lack of credibility on the part of individuals or groups of individuals." (R. 563, Ex. A, Expert Report of James L. Kennedy, at 6-8.) (hereinafter "J. Kennedy Rep.") His supplemental report additionally opines that Defendant officers failed to provide Eilman "with access to mental health services as required... by accepted practices of law enforcement agencies throughout the United States" and that the CPD "failed to reasonably accommodate" Eilman's mental illness. (R. 563, Ex. B, Supplemental Report of James L. Kennedy, at 2, 9.) (hereinafter "J. Kennedy Supp. Rep.") Defendants challenge Kennedy's qualifications, the methodology by which he reached certain of his conclusions, and the relevance of his opinions.

A. Qualifications

In support of his qualifications to testify as an expert in the field of law enforcement practices, Kennedy presented a "Synopsis of Resume" summarizing his work experience, education, and membership in professional and community organizations. (See R. 563, Ex. C, Synopsis of Resume of James L. Kennedy.) The resume does not contain details about Kennedy's professional experiences, but Kennedy elaborated on his background during his deposition. (See R. 563, Ex. D., Deposition Testimony of James L. Kennedy, at 8-29.) (hereinafter "J. Kennedy Dep.").

Defendant, describing Kennedy's relevant experience as having been "the head of the University of Indiana police or the Sheriff of a county of 130,000 people," is unqualified to offer opinions about police practices in the city of Chicago. (R. 563, Def. Memo., at 1.) Whether a proposed expert witness is adequately qualified "can only be determined by comparing the area in which the witness has superior knowledge, skill, experience, or education with the subject matter of the witnesses's testimony." See Carroll v. Otis Elevator Co., 896 F.2d 210, 212 (7th Cir. 1990). There is no requirement, however, that the subject of the witness's proposed testimony precisely overlap with his prior experience in both kind and degree. Moreover, there is no requirement that a proferred expert have an academic degree in the field at issue, as Defendants imply. See Tuf Racing Prods., Inc. v. American Suzuki Motor Corp., 223 F.3d 585, 591 (7th Cir. 2000) (no requirement "that expert witnesses be academics or PhDs").

The Court's review of Kennedy's education and experience, as elucidated in his deposition, demonstrates that he has sufficient law enforcement experience to be qualified as an expert witness in the general field of law enforcement practices. Although he has not served in the police department of a city of Chicago's size, neither has Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans, Defendants' police practices expert. In the unpublished district court case upon which Defendants rely for their assertion that Kennedy's testimony should be barred because his experience is not sufficiently comparable to the facts at issue, the proposed expert in police use of force had no street experience of any kind. See Caitlin v. Dupage County Major Crimes Task Force, No. 04 C 2590, 2007 WL 1772175 (N.D. Ill. 2007) (Leinenweber, J.). That is not the case here.

Defendants additionally contest Kennedy's qualifications to offer opinions about the neighborhood into which Eilman was released and about whether Defendant officers violated Eilman's rights under the ADA. Paine has conceded that she will not elicit Kennedy's opinions a trial about the neighborhood of release, and thus the Court need not decide whether he would be qualified to offer such opinions.

As to Kennedy's opinions about Defendant officers's failure to "reasonably accommodate" Eilman's mental health condition, he does not offer a legal conclusion about whether Paine has shown a violation of the ADA, or even about what would be necessary to make such a showing. Instead, he is offering a law enforcement opinion based on his own experience with the ADA's "accommodations and modifications" in the course of police operations. (See J. Kennedy Dep. at 84-85.) Both parties have agreed that no witness will be asked to offer opinions consisting of legal conclusions, and with that caveat, Kennedy ...


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