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Paine v. Johnson

February 26, 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 set forth herein, Paine's Motion in Limine and Motion to Bar Certain Opinion Testimony and Related Portions of Report of Dr. Alexander Obolsky M.D. is granted in part and denied in part.

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. Paine's Motion to Bar the Expert Testimony of Dr. Alexander Obolsky

Dr. Alexander Obolsky ("Obolsky") is a psychiatrist who opines: 1) that Eilman's mental state during her time in custody did not meet the criteria for involuntary admission to a mental health facility, and 2) that it did not substantially limit her ability to perform major life activities. Paine moves to bar "certain" of Obolsky's proposed opinions on the grounds that they are beyond his areas of expertise, or are unsupported by facts in the record, or are irrelevant. The Court held a hearing on Paine's Motion to Bar Obolsky's testimony on February 1, 2010.

A. Qualifications

Paine does not challenge Obolsky's qualifications to testify as a psychiatric expert. Obolsky's Curriculum Vitae, attached as an exhibit to his report, reveals a lengthy career of both academic and practical experience in the field of psychiatry. (See R. 569, Ex. C, Curriculum Vitae of Alexander E. Obolsky, M.D.) At hearing, Obolsky further elaborated about the specifics of his medical education and experience as a clinical and forensic psychiatrist. (See Mot. Hr'g Trans., Alexander Obolsky, at 10-14, Feb. 1, 2010) (hereinafter "Hr'g Trans. 1") The Court therefore finds him qualified to offer testimony as an expert psychiatrist.

Paine argues, however, that Obolsky's proffered opinions as they relate to two specific areas should be barred due to his lack of expertise in the relevant area: 1) police practices or procedures, and 2) the meaning of "major life activities" under the ADA.

1. Police Practices

Paine states that Obolsky should be barred from testifying as to police practices or procedures for dealing with the mentally ill, as he has no expertise in this area.When questioned during his deposition, Obolsky repeatedly stated that he was "not an expert as to [] police procedure" and did not have opinions as to the scope of police orders for dealing with mentally ill detainees. (See R. 569, Ex. B, Deposition Testimony of Alexander E. Obolsky, M.D., at 185, 216.) (hereinafter "Obolsky Dep.") Obolsky's lengthy report does not include any opinions as to the scope of relevant police procedures, or as to whether Defendants complied with applicable police practices. (See R. 569, Ex. A, Expert Report of A.E. Obolsky, M.D.) (hereinafter "Obolsky Rep."). Instead, Obolsky offers opinions regarding Eilman's behavior while in custody, his interpretations of those behaviors as relevant to her mental condition, and his conclusions as to whether Eilman's behavior required her to be sent for a mental health evaluation while in custody. Obolsky has significant experience in evaluating and addressing the mental health needs of detainees in police custody. (See Hr'g Trans 1 at 16-18.) His proffered opinions in this area are therefore properly within Obolsky's expertise as a psychiatrist; as a result, Obolsky's testimony will not be limited on this ground.

2. "Major Life Activities" and the ADA

Paine next argues that Obolsky is not qualified to offer opinions about the meaning and applicability of "major life activities" as defined by the ADA, because he has no specialized training in the area of disability evaluation or assessment. This Court finds this argument unpersuasive. Obolsky testified at the Court's hearing on this Motion that he offers opinions about patients' ability to engage in major life activities dozens of times per year in the forensic psychiatry context and hundreds of times per year in his clinical practice. (See Hr'g Trans 1 at 14.) He also stated that evaluating an individual's ability to perform major life activities is a regular part of his day-to-day practice, and that discussion of major life activities is "ubiquitous of psychiatric practice and psychiatric education." (Hr'g Trans 1 at 15.) As a ...


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