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Chaudhry v. Provident Life and Accident Insurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

April 15, 2015

NASEEM M. CHAUDHRY, M.D., Plaintiff,
v.
PROVIDENT LIFE AND ACCIDENT INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Naseem Chaudhry, M.D. has moved to exclude testimony from Dr. Carolyn R. Carman, offered by Provident Life and Accident Insurance Company ("Provident Life" or "Defendant"), pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993). For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies without prejudice Plaintiff's motion.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Naseem M. Chaudhry, M.D., suffers from a deteriorative eye condition, which has impaired his ability to drive and treat his psychiatric patients. Defendant Provident Life paid total disability benefits to Plaintiff under a disability insurance policy from mid-2003 to August 2011. After Provident Life terminated Plaintiff's disability benefits on August 15, 2011, Plaintiff sued Provident Life and its parent company, Unum Group ("Unum"), alleging breach of contract, waiver, and estoppel arising from the termination of Plaintiff's disability benefits. ( See R.78, Second Am. Compl.; see also R.132, Opinion granting-in-part Defs.' Motion for Summary Judgment.)[1]

Defendant disclosed Dr. Carolyn R. Carman O.D as an expert regarding Dr. Chaudhry's visual condition and function of work capacity. (R.145-2; see also R.157-1.) Dr. Carman is Board Certified by the American Board of Optometry and has practiced for over 30 years. (R.157-1, at 1.) Dr. Carman is Director of Center for Sight Enhancement, a clinical professor at the University Eye Institute at the University of Houston, and currently serves as a member of the Texas Department of Health Medical Advisory Board which includes providing medical opinions and recommendations to the Texas Department of Public Safety regarding medical and visual limitations related to driver's license candidates. ( Id. ) Dr. Carman offers a single opinion in her expert report related to this case: "Dr. Chaudhry's visual impairment was functionally mild and did not prevent him from performing the material and substantial duties of his vocation as a psychiatrist or geriatric psychiatrist during the time frame of the records review." ( Id., at 12.)

LEGAL STANDARD FOR DAUBERT MOTIONS

"A district court's decision to exclude expert testimony is governed by Federal Rules of Evidence 702 and 703, as construed by the Supreme Court in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993)." Brown v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Ry. Co., 765 F.3d 765, 771 (7th Cir. 2014); see also Lewis v. Citgo Petroleum Corp., 561 F.3d 698, 705 (7th Cir. 2009). Rule 702, governing the admissibility of expert testimony, provides:

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.

"In short, the rule requires that the trial judge ensure that any and all expert testimony or evidence admitted "is not only relevant, but reliable." Manpower, Inc. v. Ins. Co. of Pa. 732 F.3d 796, 806 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 589, 113 S.Ct. 2786); see also Bielskis v. Louisville Ladder, Inc., 663 F.3d 887, 894 (7th Cir. 2011) (explaining that ultimately, the expert's opinion "must be reasoned and founded on data [and] must also utilize the methods of the relevant discipline"); Lees v. Carthage College, 714 F.3d 516, 521 (7th Cir. 2013) (explaining the current version of Rule 702 essentially codified Daubert and "remains the gold standard for evaluating the reliability of expert testimony"). The Daubert principles apply equally to scientific and non-scientific expert testimony. See Manpower, Inc., 732 F.3d at 806 (citing Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 147-49, 119 S.Ct. 1167, 143 L.Ed.2d 238 (1999)).

Under the expert-testimony framework, courts perform the gatekeeping function of determining whether the expert testimony is both relevant and reliable prior to its admission at trial. See Manpower, Inc., 732 F.3d at 806; Lees, 714 F.3d at 521; United States v. Pansier, 576 F.3d 726, 737 (7th Cir. 2009) ("To determine reliability, the court should consider the proposed expert's full range of experience and training, as well as the methodology used to arrive [at] a particular conclusion."). In doing so, courts "make the following inquiries before admitting expert testimony: first, the expert must be qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education; second, the proposed expert must assist the trier of fact in determining a relevant fact at issue in the case; third, the expert's testimony must be based on sufficient facts or data and reliable principles and methods; and fourth, the expert must have reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case." Lees, 714 F.3d at 521-22; see also Stollings v. Ryobi Techs., Inc., 725 F.3d 753, 765 (7th Cir. 2013); Pansier, 576 F.3d at 737. A district court's evaluation of expert testimony under Daubert does not "take the place of the jury to decide ultimate issues of credibility and accuracy." Lapsley v. Xtek, Inc., 689 F.3d 802, 805 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 596). Once it is determined that "the proposed expert testimony meets the Daubert threshold of relevance and reliability, the accuracy of the actual evidence is to be tested before the jury with the familiar tools of vigorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence, and careful instruction on the burden of proof.'" Id.

In addition, as the Seventh Circuit teaches:

Where the gatekeeper and the factfinder are one and the same - that is, the judge - the need to make such decisions prior to hearing testimony is lessened. See United States v. Brown, 415 F.3d 1257, 1268-69 (11th Cir. 2005). That is not to say that the scientific reliability requirement is lessened in such situations; the point is only that the court can hear the evidence and make its reliability determination during, rather than in advance of, trial. Thus, where the factfinder and the gatekeeper are the same, the court does not err in admitting the evidence subject to the ability later to exclude it or disregard it if it turns out not to meet the standard of reliability established by Rule 702.

In re Salem, 465 F.3d 767, 777 (7th Cir. 2006); see also Metavante Corp. v. Emigrant Sav. Bank, 619 F.3d 748, 760 (7th Cir. 2010) (observing that "the court in a bench trial need not make reliability determinations before evidence is presented" because "the usual concerns of the rule- keeping unreliable expert testimony from the jury-are not present in such a setting"); Brown, 415 F.3d at 1269 ("There is ...


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