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C.G., et al v. the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Education

August 16, 2011

C.G., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS
v.
THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, AND SECRETARY GERALD ZAHORCHAK, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Chief Judge Kane)

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion to exclude the testimony of Dr. Jay Gottlieb pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(B) and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993). The Court ordered briefing on the matter, and on March 30, 2011, the Court heard the testimony of Dr. Gottlieb and the arguments of counsel. On July 18, 2011, Defendants filed a supplemental report prepared by Dr. Gottlieb. (Doc. No. 221.) Plaintiffs filed a motion exclude this supplemental report on July 29, 2011. (Doc. No. 225.) For the reasons stated more fully herein, the Court will grant Plaintiffs' motion to exclude the report.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Federal Rules of Evidence embrace a policy of admitting evidence that might assist the trier of fact. Fed. R. Evid. 401. Accordingly, "Rule 702, which governs the admissibility of expert testimony, has a liberal policy of admissibility." Pineda v. Ford Motor Co., 520 F.3d 237, 243 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Kannankeril v. Terminix Int'l, Inc., 128 F.3d 802, 806 (3d Cir. 1997)). However, while expert testimony will generally be admissible,*fn1 in determining whether to admit expert testimony at trial, the Federal Rules of Evidence charge the Court with acting as a gatekeeper "to ensure that any and all expert testimony or evidence is not only relevant, but also reliable." Kannankeril, 128 F.3d at 806 (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 589). The party offering an expert must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the testimony and witness satisfy the requirements of Federal Rule of Evidence 702. See Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592-93 (citing Fed. R. Evid. 104(a)). Rule 702, which governs the admissibility of expert testimony, provides that:

If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (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.

Fed. R. Evid. 702. "Rule 702 embodies a trilogy of restrictions on expert testimony: qualification, reliability[,] and fit." Schneider ex rel. Estate of Schneider v. Fried, 320 F.3d 396, 404 (3d Cir. 2003) (citing In re Paoli R.R. Yard PCB Litig., 35 F.3d 717, 741-43 (3d Cir.1994)).

II. DISCUSSION

At the Daubert hearing Plaintiffs primarily challenged Dr. Gottlieb's report on the basis of qualification and reliability. The Court will consider first Dr. Gottlieb's qualifications as an expert and second will consider the reliability of his report.

A. Qualification of Dr. Gottlieb

When considering the expertise of a witness, a court must "eschew[] imposing overly rigorous requirements of expertise" and instead consider "a broad range of knowledge, skills, and training" that may qualify a witness as an expert. Lauria v. AMTRAK, 145 F.3d 593, 598 (3d Cir. 1998) (citing Paoli, 35 F.3d at 741). As one district court has explained, this process involves a two step inquiry:

First, the Court must determine whether the proffered expert has minimal qualifications, either through experience or education, in a field that is relevant to a subject which will assist the trier of fact. Second, the Court must compare the expert's area of expertise with the particular opinion the expert seeks to offer to ensure that the opinion to be rendered will be helpful to the jury.

Poust v. Huntleigh Healthcare, 998 F. Supp. 478, 491 (D.N.J. 1998) (citing Federal Judicial Center, Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence 55 (1994)).

There is no dispute that Dr. Gottlieb is an expert in the field of special education. His experience, education, and publications on this subject speak for themselves. (See Doc.124-3.) However, Dr. Gottlieb is offered as an expert qualified to comment on Dr. Baker's expert report. (Hearing Tr. at 20:23-25.) Dr. Baker was offered, without objection, as an expert in school finance policy, research, and analysis, and his report addresses these subjects. (Hearing Tr. at 90:8-20.) On this subject, Dr. Gottlieb's qualifications are less clear. Although Dr. Gottlieb has not engaged in research on the effect of funding levels on special education outcomes (Hearing Tr. at 21:16-18), Defendants note that Dr. Gottlieb did serve on the Mamaroneck School Board for six years and worked on education budgets (Hearing Tr. at 8:12-14). The Court is, however, ...


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