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Rhinehart v. Scutt

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 26, 2017

DAVID L. RHINEHART and LEWIS RHINEHART, Joint Personal Representatives of the Estate of KENNETH A. RHINEHART, Deceased, Plaintiffs,
v.
DEBRA SCUTT, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' DAUBERT MOTION [310]

          STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III United States District Court Judge

         Before the Court is Defendants' renewed motion to exclude the testimony of Plaintiffs' retained expert, Dr. Stuart Finkel. Defendants previously filed an omnibus motion seeking, among other things, to preclude the expert testimony of Finkel for failing to satisfy Rule 702. The Court held a hearing, denied the motion without prejudice, and permitted Defendants to file a renewed motion further setting forth their argument that Finkel's expert opinion is not scientifically supported. The issues presented are straightforward, so no hearing is necessary. The Court will grant the motion in part, and deny it in part.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 governs expert testimony. The rule permits an expert to testify in the form of an opinion 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.

Fed. R. Evid. 702.

         The Supreme Court's decision in Daubert provided additional context for employing the rule. When faced with a proffer of expert testimony, a trial court must first determine under Rule 104(a), "whether the expert is proposing to testify to (1) scientific knowledge that (2) will assist the trier of fact to understand or determine a fact in issue." Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 592 (1993). The trial court is required to make "a preliminary assessment of whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is scientifically valid and of whether that reasoning or methodology properly can be applied to the facts in issue." Id. at 592-93.

         The burden of establishing the admissibility of expert testimony rests on the party offering the testimony. Pride v. BIC Corp., 218 F.3d 566, 578 (6th Cir. 2000). And though "the rejection of expert testimony is the exception rather than the rule, " the offering party must establish its admissibility by a preponderance of proof. Fed.R.Evid. 702 Advisory Committee Note (2000); Nelson v. Tenn. Gas Pipeline Co., 243 F.3d 244, 251 (6th Cir. 2001).

         DISCUSSION

         Stuart Finkel is a medical doctor who is board-certified in gastroenterology and internal medicine. Finkel Report, ECF 263-10, PgID 5373. Finkel authored a report and made various conclusions regarding Rhinehart's treatment and the actions of the doctors who cared for him. At the hearing on Defendants' previous motion, the Court stated that the Report itself will not be admitted into evidence because it contains Finkel's various legal conclusions and statements about others' knowledge or states of mind. But Finkel's report also offered medical opinions and Plaintiffs intend to call Finkel as an expert witness at trial to testify to those opinions. Defendants now move the Court to limit his in-court testimony pursuant to Daubert and Rule 702.

         Although Defendants' requested relief is general-it describes only "irrelevant and scientifically unsupported opinions"-their brief more specifically objects to Finkel testifying to Rhinehart's fear of cancer and Rhinehart's alleged pain and suffering from not being evaluated for a TIPS procedure. ECF 310, PgID 7668-69, ...


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