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Giuffre v. Jefferson

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

March 10, 2017



          John Z. Lee United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Philip Giuffre brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against police officers Karen Jefferson, Amy Hurley, Michael Shephard, Marlene Smolek, Malcolm Domio, and Maureen Webb (collectively, “the Officer Defendants”), as well as against the City of Chicago. He alleges that, on July 11, 2013, the Officer Defendants pulled into a CVS parking lot where Plaintiff was sitting, ordered him to exit his car, fired their weapons at him several times, and thereby caused him serious injury. Based upon these allegations, Plaintiff brings a claim for use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. He also brings a claim for battery under Illinois law.

         In anticipation of trial, the parties have filed various motions in limine. Now before the Court is Plaintiff's motion in limine to bar Defendants' expert witness Dr. Angelos Halaris [132]. For the reasons stated herein, the motion is granted.

         Legal Standard

         Although the Federal Rules of Evidence do not explicitly authorize in limine rulings, the practice has developed pursuant to the district court's inherent authority to manage the course of trials.” Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984). Rulings in limine avoid delay and allow the parties the opportunity to prepare themselves and witnesses for the introduction or exclusion of the applicable evidence. See Wilson v. Williams, 182 F.3d 562, 566 (7th Cir. 1999); United States v. Connelly, 874 F.2d 412, 416 (7th Cir. 1989). Trial courts have broad discretion in ruling on evidentiary issues before trial. See United States v. Chambers, 642 F.3d 588, 594 (7th Cir. 2011); Cefalu v. Vill. of Elk Grove, 211 F.3d 416, 426 (7th Cir. 2000). Moreover, rulings on motions in limine are “subject to change when the case unfolds.” Luce, 469 U.S. at 41; see also Farfaras v. Citizens Bank & Trust of Chi., 433 F.3d 558, 565 (7th Cir. 2006). Indeed, “even if nothing unexpected happens at trial, the district judge is free, in the exercise of sound judicial discretion, to alter a previous in limine ruling.” Luce, 469 U.S. at 41-42.

         The admissibility of expert testimony is governed by Federal Rule of Evidence (FRE) 702 and the Supreme Court's seminal decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). See United States v. Parra, 402 F.3d 752, 758 (7th Cir. 2005). FRE 702 allows the admission of testimony by an expert-that is, someone with the requisite “knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education”-to help the trier of fact “understand the evidence or [ ] determine a fact in issue.” Fed.R.Evid. 702. An expert witness is permitted to testify when (1) the testimony is “based on sufficient facts or data, ” (2) the testimony is “the product of reliable principles and methods, ” and (3) the witness has “reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.” Id. The proponent of an expert witness bears the burden of demonstrating that the expert's testimony would satisfy the Daubert standard by a preponderance of the evidence. Lewis v. CITGO Petroleum Corp., 561 F.3d 698, 705 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Under Daubert, the Court must act as the evidentiary gatekeeper, ensuring that FRE 702's requirements of reliability and relevance are satisfied before allowing the finder of fact to hear the testimony of a proffered expert. See Daubert, 509 U.S. at 589; see also Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 147-49 (1999). District courts have broad discretion in determining the admissibility of expert testimony. See Lapsley v. Xtek, Inc., 689 F.3d 802, 810 (7th Cir. 2012). In considering whether to admit expert testimony, district courts employ a three-part framework that inquires whether: (1) the expert is qualified by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education; (2) the reasoning or methodology underlying the expert's testimony is reliable; and (3) the expert's testimony will assist the trier of fact in understanding the evidence or determining a factual issue. See Bielskis v. Louisville Ladder, Inc., 663 F.3d 887, 893-94 (7th Cir. 2011).


         Plaintiff has moved to bar Defendants' expert Dr. Angelos Halaris. Dr. Halaris is a certified psychiatrist who has practiced clinical psychiatry for over forty years. Based upon his review of various documents disclosed during discovery, as well as the deposition testimony of Plaintiff and other witnesses, Dr. Halaris has offered the following opinion about Plaintiff's mental state during the incident on July 11, 2013, giving rise to this lawsuit:

On 7/11/2013, the rapidly unfolding situation of rejection of [Plaintiff's] request for an early refill [of his prescription medication] and the sudden appearance of police cars and officers generated a sense of inescapability and total defeat. I view his decision to exit his car and simulate an assault on police by pretending to hold a gun as his wish to be relieved from his unrelenting emotional pain.[1]

Defs.' Resp. Pl.'s Mot. Limine No. 3, Ex. A, at 15, ECF No. 142.

         Plaintiff objects to this testimony on the ground that it impermissibly assumes as true Defendants' version of the facts and therefore will not be helpful to the jury. In particular, Plaintiff asserts that Dr. Halaris's testimony assumes as true that Plaintiff “exited his car and simulated an assault on police by pretending to hold a gun.” Plaintiff denies that this description of the events is accurate.

         Expert testimony cannot be offered merely for the purpose of bolstering the credibility of a party's version of the facts. The reason for this general rule is that, rather than helping the jury “to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, ” Fed.R.Evid. 702(a), such testimony usurps the jury's role by “wrap[ping] the lay witness in the expert's prestige and authority.” Nunez v. BNSF Ry. Co., 730 F.3d 681, 684 (7th Cir. 2013). As such, expert testimony that primarily rests upon the assumption that a lay witness has testified accurately is inadmissible. See id. (holding that expert testimony was properly barred when it “rested mainly not on the technical evidence that [the experts] planned to give but on their belief that [certain lay witnesses] had testified accurately”); Clark v. Takata Corp., 192 F.3d 750, 757-59 (7th Cir. 1999) (emphasis in original) (holding that testimony from the plaintiff's expert was properly barred as unlikely to assist the trier of fact when the expert “assume[d] as truth the very issue that [the plaintiff] need[ed] to prove in order to recover”).

         Here, Plaintiff is correct that Dr. Halaris's opinion regarding Plaintiff's state of mind on July 11, 2013, does precisely what expert testimony must not do: it assumes as true Defendants' account that Plaintiff simulated an assault on police by pretending to hold a gun. Whether the jury chooses to credit Defendants' account on this matter is a central question in this case, because it bears on whether Defendants' response to Plaintiff's actions was an objectively reasonable use of force. Thus, allowing Dr. Halaris to offer an opinion relying in primary part upon the assumption that Defendants' account is accurate would cause significant confusion regarding this issue and ...

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