United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
GILBERT C. SISON United States Magistrate Judge.
January 14, 2016, Plaintiff Stevan Schmelzer was driving when
his vehicle collided with a semi-tanker driven by Defendant
Mark J. Muncy. Schmelzer alleges that as a result of the
accident, he suffered a traumatic brain injury, and he filed
suit seeking, among other damages, compensation for future
expenses, including lost future wages.
move for partial summary judgment because Plaintiff failed to
disclose an expert who will testify that the car accident
caused his brain injury. Defendants also argue that
Plaintiffs do not have an expert to testify as to his need
for future medical treatment, preventing them from recovering
for possible future damages. (Doc. 178. 179). For the reasons
delineated below, the Court denies Defendants' motion.
in this action has been protracted with the Court regularly
weighing in on disputes between the parties, and, in
particular, addressing the disclosure of expert witnesses by
the plaintiffs. In an Order entered August 14, 2019, the
Court found that Plaintiffs failed to disclose properly
Schmelzer's treating physicians as non-retained experts,
but the undersigned permitted late disclosures subject to
certain sanctions. As a result, some, if not all of
Defendants' arguments in favor of summary judgment may
now be moot. To the extent that the testimony of
Plaintiffs' non-retained expert treating physicians does
not render Defendants' motion moot, the Court summarizes
the factual background as follows.
January 14, 2016, Stevan Schmelzer and Mark Muncy were
involved in an automobile collision. According to Schmelzer,
he suffered a traumatic brain injury (“TBI”) as a
result of the accident. Schmelzer has disclosed an expert to
testify as to the severity of his TBI, but, according to
Defendants, he has not disclosed an expert to testify as to
the causation of the injury. Dr. Lance Trexler, a
neuropsychologist, was disclosed by Schmelzer to testify as
to the residual effects of the brain injury.
also disclosed an expert on economic damages, David Gibson.
Gibson is not a medical expert and, instead, accepts the
medical opinions expressed by medical experts in reaching an
opinion as to lost-income damages. In addition to Gibson,
Plaintiffs designated Carol White, who has a Doctorate of
Nursing Practice, to provide expert testimony as to potential
future medical expenses, including treatment, medication, and
transportation. Specifically, White was retained to prepare a
life-care plan, relying, in part, on medical opinions and
information provided by Schmelzer's treating physicians.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 governs motions for summary
judgment. Summary judgment is appropriate if the movant shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
See Archdiocese of Milwaukee v. Doe, 743 F.3d 1101,
1105 (7th Cir. 2014)(citing Fed. R. Civ. Proc.
56(a)). Accord Anderson v. Donahoe, 699 F.3d 989,
994 (7th Cir. 2012). A genuine issue of material
fact remains “if the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). Accord Bunn v. Khoury Enterpr., Inc., 753
F.3d 676, 681-682 (7th Cir. 2014).
assessing a summary judgment motion, the district court views
the facts in the light most favorable to, and draws all
reasonable inferences in favor of, the nonmoving party.
See Anderson v. Donahoe, 699 F.3d 989, 994 (7th Cir.
2012); Delapaz v. Richardson, 634 F.3d 895, 899 (7th
Cir. 2011). As the Seventh Circuit has explained, as required
by Rule 56(a), “we set forth the facts by examining the
evidence in the light reasonably most favorable to the
non-moving party, giving [him] the benefit of reasonable,
favorable inferences and resolving conflicts in the evidence
in [his] favor.” Spaine v. Community Contacts,
Inc., 756 F.3d 542, 544 (7th Cir. 2014).
Court finds that Defendants' arguments that only an
expert can testify as to the cause of Schmelzer's brain
injury lacking in merit. Circumstantial evidence can
establish whether Schmelzer had a brain injury before the
collision. There is sufficient non-expert evidence that could
allow a reasonable juror to conclude that the accident caused
Schmelzer's TBI. Non-expert testimony cannot establish
the severity of the injury or the residual effects on
Schmelzer's life, but expert testimony is not needed to
establish causation based on the record before the Court.
See, e.g., McAllister v. Price, 615 F.3d
877, 882 (7th Cir. 2010)(finding that a “plaintiff may
rely on lay testimony when causation is within the
understanding of a lay person.”).
Defendants' arguments against David Gibson's
calculations require the Court to find that Plaintiffs cannot
establish causation, Defendants' motion for summary
judgment will not be granted on this basis either. As to
White's expert testimony to establish future medical
treatment, Defendants argue that Dr. Trexler does not offer
an opinion on future care and that Schmelzer's treating
physicians should be barred from offering expert testimony.
As the Court resolved the issues related to expert testimony
from the treating physicians, the undersigned finds that
Defendants do not carry their burden of showing that they are
entitled to summary judgment.
also raise an argument regarding medical bills that exceed
the paid amounts, but the argument is brief, undeveloped, and
premature, given the on-going nature of expert discovery. For
all these reasons, ...