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.
Michael Baden [Dkt. 277]. 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 pathologist Michael Baden, M.D., to
“assist the jury in understanding the critical cause of
death issue.” (Dkt. 338 at 2). Dr. Baden is the former
Chief Medical Examiner of New York City and the former Chief
Forensic Pathologist of the New York State Police. He has
performed over 20, 000 autopsies in his forty-five years as a
medical examiner and has authored or co-authored more than 80
professional articles and books on forensic medicine. He has
served as President of the Society of Medical Jurisprudence
and Vice President of the American Academy of Forensic
Science and has been a consultant to the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, Veteran's Administration, Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Drug Enforcement Agency and
the United States' Department of Justice. He also has
testified at over 60 trials and depositions. (See
Dkt. 338-1 at 1-32).
reviewing the Medical Examiner's file, including an
autopsy report, toxicology and neuropathology reports,
autopsy x-rays, microscopic slides, scene and autopsy
photographs, scene videos, microscopic slides as well as
expert reports, depositions, and police and witness
statements, Dr. Baden offered the following opinions:
Opinion 1: Mr. Godinez did not die from cocaine and alcohol
Opinion 2: Mr. Godinez' autopsy revealed evidence of
Opinion 3: Mr. Godinez died as a result of the restraint
techniques used on him by police. (Dkt. 338-4 at 1-8)
do not challenge Dr. Baden's overall qualifications but
focus their arguments on the reliability of his opinions in
his report and testimony. Defendants take issue with Dr.
Baden's “ultimate” cause of death opinion
that “Mr. Godinez's death was due to asphyxia-an
inability to breathe-caused by the way in which he was
restrained by police before and when he was placed in the
van.” (Dkt. 277, citing Dkt. 277-1 at 8). Defendants
argue that Dr. Baden's cause of death opinion and
testimony should be barred because it: 1) ...