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Goode v. The City of Southaven

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

September 27, 2018

KELLI DENISE GOODE, Individually, and also as the Personal Representative of Troy Charlton Goode, Deceased, and as Mother, Natural Guardian, and Next Friend of R.G., a Minor, and also on behalf of all similarly situated persons PLAINTIFF



         Before the Court is Kelli Denise Goode's motion to exclude the testimony of William T. Gaut, Ph.D. Doc. #407.


         Procedural History and Relevant Background

         On January 13, 2016, Kelli Denise Goode-individually, and in her capacity as the personal representative of her deceased husband, as next friend of her minor son, and on behalf of “all similarly situated persons”-filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee “seek[ing] damages and injunctive relief based upon the untimely death of [her husband] Troy Charlton Goode ….” Doc. #1 at 1-2. On August 15, 2016, Kelli, [1] in the same capacities as that in her original complaint, filed an amended complaint, naming as defendants the City of Southaven, Todd Baggett, Jeremy Bond, Tyler Price, Joel Rich, Jason Scallorn, Stacie J. Graham, Mike Mueller, William Painter, Jr., Bruce K. Sebring, Joseph Spence, Richard A. Weatherford (collectively, “Southaven Defendants”); John Does 1-10; Baptist Memorial Hospital-Desoto; Southeastern Emergency Physicians, Inc.; [2] and Lemuel D. Oliver, M.D. Doc. #107. In her amended complaint, Kelli asserts numerous state and federal claims against the defendants regarding Troy's death-which Kelli alleges was caused by positional asphyxia and his placement in a maximal, prone restraint.[3] Id. at 2, 17.

         On March 31, 2017, this action was transferred from the Western District of Tennessee to this Court. Doc. #246. Following a period of extended discovery, on January 23, 2018, Kelli filed a motion to “exclud[e] testimony of William T. Gaut, Ph.D., an expert disclosed by Defendant, the City of Southaven, ” along with a memorandum brief. Doc. #407; Doc. #413. On February 9, 2018, [4] the Southaven Defendants filed a response and memorandum brief in opposition. Doc. #461; Doc. #462. A week later, Kelli replied. Doc. #477.[5]


         Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 provides:

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 Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), a district court has a “special obligation … to ensure that any and all scientific testimony is not only relevant, but reliable.” Bear Ranch, L.L.C. v. Heartbrand Beef, Inc., 885 F.3d 794, 802 (5th Cir. 2018) (alterations and internal quotation marks omitted). “To establish reliability under Daubert, an expert bears the burden of furnishing some objective, independent validation of his methodology.” Brown v. Ill. Cent. R.R. Co., 705 F.3d 531, 536 (5th Cir. 2013) (alterations and internal quotation marks omitted).

         When considering reliability, Daubert dictates that trial courts should consider the “extent to which a given technique can be tested, whether the technique is subject to peer review and publication, any known potential rate of error, the existence and maintenance of standards governing operation of the technique, and, finally, whether the method has been generally accepted in the relevant scientific community.” Hathaway v. Bazany, 507 F.3d 312, 318 (5th Cir. 2007). The Daubert factors “are not mandatory or exclusive.” Id. Rather, the district court should consider whether the enumerated factors “are appropriate, use them as a starting point, and then ascertain if other factors should be considered.” Id. (citing Black v. Food Lion, 171 F.3d 308, 311- 12 (5th Cir. 1999)). Overall, the Court must be mindful that “the fact that … testimony may be assailable does not mean it is inadmissible under Rule 702. The trial court's role as gatekeeper … is not intended to serve as a replacement for the adversary system.” United States v. Ebron, 683 F.3d 105, 139 (5th Cir. 2012).

         Federal Rule of Evidence 704 provides, in pertinent part, that “[a]n opinion is not objectionable just because it embraces an ultimate issue.” “Rule 704, however, does not open the door to all opinions. The Advisory Committee notes make it clear that questions which would merely allow the witness to tell the jury what result to reach are not permitted. Nor is the rule intended to allow a witness to give legal conclusions.” Owen v. Kerr-McGee Corp., 698 F.2d 236, 240 (5th Cir. 1983) (emphasis omitted). In distinguishing permissible opinions on ultimate issues from irrelevant legal conclusions, opinions should be “phrased in such broad terms that it could as readily elicit a legal as well as a fact based response. A direct response, whether it be negative or affirmative, would supply the jury with no information other than the expert's view of how its verdict should read.” Id.



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