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Mathias v. Shoemaker

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 21, 2017

BRENDA LEE MATHIAS, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
MICHAEL EAVES SHOEMAKER, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge

         This Memorandum Order addresses Plaintiffs' Motion to Preclude Defendant's Expert Joseph Hancock (“Hancock”) from Testifying (“Plaintiffs' Motion”). (ECF Nos. 60, 61.) Following a Motions Hearing conducted on August 17, 2017, this Court took the matter under advisement. Having further considered the parties' submissions and their arguments presented at the hearing, this Court finds that Hancock's reports and proposed testimony do not satisfy the standards of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 588 (1993), as set forth under Federal Rule of Evidence 702. Accordingly, Plaintiff's Motion (ECF No. 60) will be GRANTED, Hancock may not testify at trial, and defendants may not introduce Hancock's reports into evidence.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence provides that “[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.

“Under Rule 702…Courts are required to act as ‘gatekeepers' to ensure that expert testimony is relevant and reliable.” Bresler v. Wilmington Trust Co., 855 F.3d 178, 195 (4th Cir. 2017) (quoting Cooper v. Smith & Nephew, Inc., 259 F.3d 194, 199 (4th Cir. 2001). See Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 588 (1993). “[A] district court ‘must conduct a preliminary assessment' to determine whether the methodology underlying the expert witness' testimony is valid.” Bresler, 855 F.3d at 195 (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592-93).

         Although Rule 702 allows for a liberal introduction of expert evidence, “courts must recognize that due to the difficulty of evaluating their testimony, expert witnesses have the potential to ‘be both powerful and quite misleading.'” Westberry v. Gislaved Gummi AB, 178 F.3d 257, 261 (4th Cir. 1999) (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 595). The proponent of the expert testimony in question must establish admissibility “by a preponderance of proof.” Cooper, 259 F.3d at 199 (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592 n. 10). The United States Supreme Court in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993) set forth several factors for courts to consider in assessing the admissibility of expert testimony. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently reiterated those factors in Bresler :

In assessing the validity of the methodology employed by a proposed expert witness, a court may consider whether the expert witness' theory or technique: (1) “can be or has been tested”; (2) “has been subjected to peer review and publication”; (3) “has a high known or potential rate of error”; and (4) is generally accepted “within a relevant scientific community.”

Bresler, 855 F.3d at 195 (citing Cooper, 259 F.3d at 199). The Daubert factors are “neither definitive, nor exhaustive.” Cooper, 259 F.3d at 199 (citing Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 150 (1999)). Rather, “[t]he district court must be granted ‘considerable leeway in deciding in a particular case how to go about determining whether particular expert testimony is reliable.' ” United States v. McLean, No. 16-4673, --- Fed.App'x ---, 2017 WL 2533381, at *1 (4th Cir. June 12, 2017) (quoting United States v. Wilson, 484 F.3d 267, 273 (4th Cir. 2007)). See also Rockman v. Union Carbide Corp., RDB-16-1169, 2017 WL 3022969, at *3 (D. Md. July 17, 2017).

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiffs raise three broad arguments in support of their motion. First, they argue that all of Hancock's opinions are based on impermissible speculation. (ECF No. 61 at ¶¶ 2-4.) Second, plaintiffs assert that Hancock's opinions are unsupported by facts and data. (Id. at ΒΆΒΆ 5-7.) Third, plaintiffs assert that ...


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