United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
JANET GODINEZ, on behalf of herself and as administrator of the estate of her brother, HERIBERTO GODINEZ, Deceased, Plaintiff,
THE CITY OF CHICAGO, ET AL., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. ROWLAND United States District Judge.
Janet Godinez brings this excessive force and wrongful death
action on behalf of her brother, Heriberto Godinez, against
Defendant the City of Chicago ("the City") and
Defendant Officers. Before the Court is the City's motion
to bar the testimony of Plaintiff's retained expert, Dr.
Jan Leestma [Dkt. 275]. For the reasons set forth below, the
motion is DENIED.
Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., 509 U.S. 579 (1993),
the requirements of Federal Rule of Evidence 702 must be met
before an expert can testify. “In performing its
gatekeeper role under Rule 702 and Daubert, the
district court must engage in a three-step analysis before
admitting expert testimony. It must determine whether the
witness is qualified; whether the expert's methodology is
scientifically reliable; and whether the testimony will
assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to
determine a fact in issue.” Gopalratnam v.
Hewlett-Packard Co., 877 F.3d 771, 779 (7th Cir. 2017)
(internal citations and quotations omitted). District courts
have “significant discretion under the flexible
Daubert inquiry.” Lapsley v. Xtek,
Inc., 689 F.3d 802, 818 (7th Cir. 2012). The burden is
on the party seeking to admit the expert to show by a
preponderance of the evidence that the expert meets the
requirements of Rule 702 and Daubert.
Gopalratnam, 877 F.3d at 782.
Seventh Circuit has explained:
(t)he purpose of the Daubert inquiry is to
scrutinize proposed expert witness testimony to determine if
it has ‘the same level of intellectual rigor that
characterizes the practice of an expert in the relevant
field' so as to be deemed reliable enough to present to a
jury. Kumho Tire Co. v. Car-michael, 526 U.S. 137,
152, 119 S.Ct. 1167, 143 L.Ed.2d 238 (1999). A
Daubert inquiry is not designed to have the district
judge take the place of the jury to decide ultimate issues of
credibility and accuracy. If 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. Lapsley, 689 F.3d at 805.
“there are many different kinds of experts, and many
different kinds of expertise, . . . the gatekeeping inquiry
must be ‘tied to the facts' of a particular
case.” Kumho Tire Co., 526 U.S. at 150
(quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 591). Courts therefore
review each conclusion of the expert in relation to the
expert's education, skill, and training, and ask
“not whether an expert witness is qualified in general,
but whether his qualifications provide a foundation for [him
or her] to answer a specific question.” Gayton v.
McCoy, 593 F.3d 610, 617 (7th Cir. 2010) (internal
citations and quotations omitted). With regard to
reliability, “the key to the gate is not the ultimate
correctness of the expert's conclusions. Instead, it is
the soundness and care with which the expert arrived at her
opinion.” C.W. v. Textron, Inc., 807 F.3d 827,
834 (7th Cir. 2015) (internal citations and quotations
retained forensic neuropathologist Jan Leestma, M.D., to
offer a cause of death opinion. (Dkt. 339 at 2). Dr. Leestma
has practiced forensic neuropathology and medicine for over
40 years. He has served as the Assistant Medical Examiner in
neu-ropathology at the Office of the Cook County Medical
Examiner, the Director of Neu-ropathology at Northwestern
University Medical Center, Chief of Neuropathology at
Children's Memorial Hospital, Executive Director of
Research of the Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and
Neuroresearch. He has performed over 20, 000 brain autopsies
and 8, 000 spinal cord dissections, has testified at over 100
trials and depositions, and has authored or co-authored 116
books and articles on forensic medicine and neuropathology.
(See Dkt. 339-8 at 1-8; Dkt. 339-8 at 22-26,
reviewing the medical examiner's file, including
radiology, x-rays, and toxicology and neuropathology
consults; the investigation file, including police officer
and witness statements; brain and spinal cord slides, Drs.
Watkins' and Denton's reports; a police dash cam
video (“video”), and personally observing the
brain and spinal cord cutting and examination, Dr. Leestma
offered the following opinions in this matter:
Opinion 1: Before his death, Mr. Godinez's brain was
deprived of blood flow and/or oxygen intermittently or all at
once causing him to suffer hypoxia-ischemic brain injury.
Opinion 2: Mr. Godinez suffered trauma to the neck that made
his neck hypermobile and probably unstable which made him
vulnerable to a spinal cord injury during transport.
Opinion 3: Mr. Godinez suffered a spinal cord injury in the
region of the C2-C4 vertebrae, which ultimately paralyzed him
from the neck down and caused him ...