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Smith v. Union Insurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division

June 22, 2017

ANTHONY SMITH PLAINTIFF
v.
UNION INSURANCE COMPANY DEFENDANT

          ORDER

          MICHAEL P. MILLS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This cause comes before the Court on defendant Union Insurance Company's (“Union”) Second Motion in Limine to Exclude Plaintiff's Expert [141]. In the motion, Union urges this Court to exclude plaintiff Anthony Smith's proffered expert, Lydia Quarles, for various reasons. Smith filed a response in opposition to the motion, to which Union filed a reply. The Court, having reviewed these submissions and relevant authorities, is now prepared to rule.

         Relevant Background[1]

         This action is based upon a dispute between an injured employee and a workers' compensation insurance carrier. Anthony Smith was employed by the Desoto County School District in Desoto County, Mississippi. On August 10, 2009, Smith attempted to replace a light bulb in his classroom. However, the light bulb unexpectedly exploded, causing Smith to lose his balance and fall from a ten-foot ladder. As a result of the fall, Smith sustained serious injuries to his head, neck, back, and shoulder. At the time of Smith's injury, Union was Desoto County School District's workers' compensation insurance carrier.

         Due to the severity of his injuries, Smith required extensive medical care. Smith alleges, however, that he failed to receive the medical care he needed in a timely fashion due to Union's unnecessary delay in authorizing various treatments. He consequently filed the present action in this Court on September 24, 2015, alleging that Union acted in bad faith by delaying authorization of various medical treatments he needed. Specifically, Smith avers that “[t]he delays, and the refusal to investigate [his] need for medical care is systemic behavior of a willful nature representing a repetitious, and intentional wrong against [him], and illustrates a gross and reckless disregard for the impact any delay in care had upon [him].”

         The present motion concerns Smith's proffered expert, Lydia Quarles. The Court has already disposed of Union's first motion to exclude Quarles, granting it in part and prohibiting Quarles from supplementing her original report after the applicable deadline to do so. Now, Union contends that Quarles is unqualified and that her opinions are wholly irrelevant and unreliable. Having reviewed the parties' arguments, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that the motion should be denied.

         Legal Standard for Expert Testimony

         This Court has previously recognized its duty “to screen a proffered expert's testimony to determine admissibility.” Childs v. Entergy Miss., Inc., 2009 WL 2508128, *2 (N.D. Miss. Aug. 13, 2009). “Expert testimony is not admissible unless the expert is qualified and the opinion is scientifically valid and methodologically sound.” Miller v. Genie Indus., Inc., 2012 WL 161408, at *4 (N.D. Miss. Jan. 19, 2012) (citing Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 592-93, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993)).

         Regarding an expert's qualifications, “[d]istrict courts must be assured that the proffered witness is qualified to testify by virtue of his ‘knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education.'” Wilson v. Woods, 163 F.3d 935, 937 (5th Cir. 1999) (citing Fed.R.Evid. 702).[2]“A proposed expert does not have to be ‘highly qualified in order to testify about a given issue. Differences in expertise bear chiefly on the weight to be assigned to the testimony by the trier of fact, not its admissibility.'” Bryant, 78 F.Supp.3d at 631 (quoting Huss v. Gayden, 571 F.3d 442, 452 (5th Cir. 2009)). Moreover, “[a] lack of personal experience . . . should not ordinarily disqualify an expert, so long as the expert is qualified based on some other factor provided by Rule 702: ‘knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education.'” U.S. v. Wen Chyu Liu, 716 F.3d 159, 168 (5th Cir. 2013) (quoting Fed.R.Evid. 702) (emphasis in original). The Court also notes that the proponent of expert testimony bears the burden to establish the witness's qualifications by a preponderance of the evidence. U.S. v. Griffith, 118 F.3d 318, 322 (5th Cir. 1997).

         Turning to the substance of the expert's proposed testimony, “the overarching concern is whether or not it is relevant and reliable.” Smith v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 495 F.3d 224, 227 (5th Cir. 2007). Regarding relevance, the testimony must “assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or determine a fact in issue[.]” Childs, 2009 WL 2508128, at *2. The relevance requirement is satisfied “where there is a sufficient relationship between the subject of the proffered testimony and the facts of the case, so that the testimony aids the factfinder in resolving a disputed issue.” Id. (additional citations omitted). As to reliability, “[a] party seeking to introduce expert testimony must show ‘(1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.'” Smith, 495 F.3d at 227 (citing Fed.R.Evid. 702). “Proposed testimony must be supported by appropriate validation- i.e., ‘good grounds, ' based on what is known. In short, the requirement that an expert's testimony pertains to ‘scientific knowledge' establishes a standard of evidentiary reliability.” Reed v. Flores, 2010 WL 5051474, at *2 (N.D. Miss. Dec. 3, 2010) (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 590).

         The Court must also “make certain that an expert, whether basing testimony upon professional studies or personal experience, employs in the courtroom the same level of intellectual rigor that characterizes the practice of an expert in the relevant field.” Id. (quoting Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 152, 119 S.Ct. 1167, 143 L.Ed.2d 238 (1999)) (additional citations omitted). Additionally, “[t]he party offering the expert testimony bears the burden of proving that the testimony is admissible.” Miller, 2012 WL 161408, at *4 (citing Smith, 495 F.3d at 227).

         Discussion

         Union makes four arguments in favor of excluding Quarles. Specifically, it contends that (1) her opinions should be excluded as untimely; (2) her opinions are inadmissible pursuant to Rules 702 and 703 of the Federal Rules of Evidence and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993); (3) her failure to consider the use of the medical fee schedule and utilization review rules renders her opinions inadmissible; and (4) she is unqualified to provide opinions regarding industry standards. The Court will address each of these arguments in turn.

         The Court first considers Union's argument that Quarles' opinions as to the fee schedule and utilization review should be excluded as untimely. ...


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