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Queen v. W.I.C., Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 5, 2017

JORDAN QUEEN Plaintiff,
v.
W.I.C., INC. d/b/a SNIPER TREESTANDS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          DAVID R. HERNDON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction and Background

         Now before the Court are defendant's motions to exclude Santo Steven BiFulco, M.D. (Doc. 120) and Karen Grossman Tabak, Ph.D., C.P.A. (Doc. 122) as plaintiff's proposed experts. Naturally, plaintiff opposes both motions (Docs. 128 &129), to which defendant replied (Doc. 130). For the following reasons, the motions are granted.

         Plaintiff Jordan Queen brought the present lawsuit alleging that he was injured after his tree stand, a Scout Model STLS41 tree stand, used for deer hunting collapsed. (Doc. 2). The tree stand was distributed by the defendant. Plaintiff alleges that on October 12, 2013, while he was at the top of the stand's ladder, the ladder bent, causing him to fall. As a result of the fall, plaintiff claims that he suffered serious injuries. Because of said injuries, plaintiff alleges that he incurred medical expenses and lost wages, and that he will continue to lose wages, due to the debilitating condition of his right leg and ankle.

         II. Legal Standard

         “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). The Daubert standard applies to all expert testimony, whether based on scientific competence or other specialized or technical expertise. Smith v. Ford Motor Co., 215 F.3d 713, 719 (7th Cir. 2000) (citing Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S.137, 141 (1999)). Federal Rule of Evidence 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); 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”).

         Courts in the Seventh Circuit conduct a three-step analysis under Daubert. Ervin v. Johnson & Johnson, Inc., 492 F.3d 901, 904 (7th Cir. 2007).[1] First, the district court must determine whether the person whose testimony is offered is in fact an expert, as codified in Rule 702 through “knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education.” Id. (citing Fed.R.Evid. 702). Notably, although “extensive academic and practical expertise” sufficiently qualify a potential witness as an expert, Bryant v. City of Chicago, 200 F.3d 1092, 1098 (7th Cir. 2000), “Rule 702 specifically contemplates the admission of testimony by experts whose knowledge is based on experience, ” Walker v. Soo Line R.R. Co., 208 F.3d 581, 591 (7th Cir. 2000). Smith, 215 F.3d at 718 (citing Kumho, 526 U.S. at 156 (“[N]o one denies that an expert might draw a conclusion from a set of observations based on extensive and specialized experience.”)).

         Secondly, the district court must determine the expert's reasoning or methodology is reliable. Ervin, 492 F.3d at 904; see Mihailovich v. Laatsch, 359 F.3d 892, 918 (7th Cir. 2004) (citing Kumho, 526 U.S. at 147). Specifically, the testimony must have a reliable basis in the knowledge and experience of the relevant discipline, Kumho, 526 U.S. at 149 (internal quotations removed), consisting in more than subjective belief or unsupported speculation. Chapman v. Maytag Corp., 297 F.3d 682, 687 (7th Cir. 2002); Daubert, 509 U.S. at 590.

         Further, as to reliability, Daubert provided the following non-exhaustive list of relevant factors: “(1) whether the scientific theory can be or has been tested; (2) whether the theory has been subjected to peer review and publication; (3) whether the theory has been generally accepted in the scientific community.” Ervin, 492 F.3d 901, 904 (7th Cir. 2007) (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 593-94).

         Nonetheless, there is no requirement that courts rely on each factor, as the gatekeeping inquiry is flexible and must be “tied to the facts” of the particular case. Kumho, 526 U.S. at 150 (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 591); see also Chapman, 297 F.3d at 687. Thus, “the role of the court is to determine whether the expert is qualified in the relevant field and to examine the methodology the expert has used in reaching his [or her] conclusions.” Smith, 215 F.3d at 718 (citing Kumho, 526 U.S. at 153).

         The district court possesses “great latitude in determining not only how to measure the reliability of the proposed expert testimony but also whether the testimony is, in fact, reliable.” United States v. Pansier, 576 F.3d 726, 737 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Jenkins v. Bartlett, 487 F.3d 482, 489 (7th Cir. 2007)). Accordingly, the court's gatekeeping function requires focus on the expert's methodology; “[s]oundness of the factual underpinnings of the expert's analysis and the correctness of the expert's conclusions based on that analysis are factual matters to be determined by the trier of fact.” Smith, 215 F.3d at 718 (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 595; Walker, 208 F.3d at 587).

         Once a party calls into question an expert's qualification under Daubert, it is the party supporting that expert who carries the burden of persuasion to convince the court that said expert is qualified. Fed.R.Evid. 702 advisory committee's note 2000 Amend.) (“[T]he admissibility of all expert testimony is governed by the principles of Rule 104(a). Under that Rule, the proponent has the burden of establishing that the pertinent admissibility requirements are met by a preponderance of the ...


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