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Buckalew v. Schneider National Carriers, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

August 21, 2014

BILLY BUCKALEW, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Heirs and Beneficiaries of Jerry Buckalew, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
SCHNEIDER NATIONAL CARRIERS, INC., and RHOAN HUDSON, Defendants.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO EXCLUDE EXPERT TESTIMONY AND MOTION FOR DAUBERT HEARING

LOUIS GUIROLA, Jr., District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT are the Motion [122] to Exclude Expert Testimony of Howard T. Katz, M.D., and the Motion [85] for Daubert Hearing filed by the plaintiff, Billy Buckalew. The defendants have filed a response in opposition to the Motion to Exclude, and the plaintiff has filed a reply. After reviewing the submissions of the parties and the applicable law, the Court finds that the Motion to Exclude and the Motion for Daubert Hearing should be denied.

FACTS

On March 2, 2011, Harold Buckalew was driving a 1996 Buick Century in the right-hand lane of Interstate 20, while traveling west. Harold's brother, Jerry, was riding in the front passenger seat of the Buick. A tractor-trailer driven by Rhoan Hudson on behalf of Schneider National Carriers was also traveling west on Interstate 20, approaching the Buckalew vehicle from behind. The tractor-trailer and Buick were involved in a collision as Hudson attempted to pass Harold, but the parties dispute which vehicle left its proper lane of travel and caused the accident. Jerry Buckalew was hospitalized after the accident, and he died on October 21, 2011. The parties dispute whether his death was caused by the accident or unrelated, preexisting conditions.

The plaintiff, Billy Buckalew, claims that Jerry's pre-existing illnesses and injuries were aggravated by the accident, resulting in Jerry's death. The defendants have designated Howard T. Katz, M.D., as an expert witness. Dr. Katz is "a licensed and practicing medical doctor, board certified in the fields of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and in the subspecialty of Spinal Cord Injury Medicine." (Defs.' Resp., Ex. D at 1, ECF No. 134-4). Dr. Katz conducted a review of Jerry's post-accident medical records, and he opined:

Based to [sic] a reasonable degree of medical certainty, Jerry Buckalew had aggravation of his chronic back pain when he was involved in the motor vehicle accident. He was about to be very ill any way. He had pre-existing severe peripheral vascular disease. He had infectious organisms in his body. He did not suffer any severe injuries from the motor vehicle accident. Rather, treatment after March 2, 2011, was related to multiple pre-existing conditions including diabetes mellitus, peripheral vascular disease, coronary artery disease, obstructive sleep apnea, osteoporosis, tobacco abuse, community acquired pneumonia and gingivitis.

(Pl.'s Mot., Ex. A at 18, ECF No. 122-1). The plaintiff asks the Court to exclude Dr. Katz's opinions.

DISCUSSION

Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence establishes the following standards for determining whether expert testimony is admissible:

(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge [must] help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony [must be] based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony [must be] the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert [must have] reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

Fed. R. Evid. 702. Thus, "expert testimony is admissible only if it is both relevant and reliable." Pipitone v. Biomatrix, Inc., 288 F.3d 239, 243 (5th Cir. 2002). "Expert testimony which does not relate to any issue in the case is not relevant and, ergo, non-helpful." Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 591 (1993). In order to be reliable, an expert's opinions must be based on ...


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