United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
JAMES M. MUNLEY, District Judge.
Before the court for disposition are Defendant Delaware and Hudson Railway Company Inc.'s (hereinafter "defendant") motions in limine. The issues are fully briefed and ripe for disposition.
Plaintiff Ermond Santanna (hereinafter "plaintiff") was hired by defendant's predecessor company, the Delaware and Hudson Railroad Corporation (hereinafter "D&H"), in 1977 and worked for approximately one year as a trackman. He then entered train service in July 1978, working as a conductor or brakeman for D&H and then for the defendant until December 2011 when medical issues with both of his knees precluded continued employment.
In 1988, D&H went bankrupt. In 1991, defendant purchased substantially all of D&H's corporate assets pursuant to an Asset Purchase Agreement. Plaintiff alleges that he suffered a knee injury in January 2010 when he fell while working in defendant's Mohawk Yard. Additionally, plaintiff claims a cumulative trauma injury - also known as a repetitive stress injury - caused by years of walking on uneven surfaces on or near the tracks where he worked. As a result of the cumulative trauma, plaintiff developed severe arthritis in his knees causing him to be disabled.
Plaintiff initiated this action on June 28, 2012, pursuant to the Federal Employer's Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. §§ 51-60, for injuries and damages allegedly sustained during the course of his employment with defendant. In support of his repetitive stress injury claims, plaintiff relies upon the expert testimony of Ellen R. Smith, an ergonomist, and Steven Valentino, D.O., an orthopedic specialist.
In anticipation of the pretrial conference, defendant filed two motions in limine. (Docs. 20, 22). Defendant's motions seek to: (1) exclude the testimony of plaintiff's two proposed expert witnesses; and (2) preclude plaintiff from entering into evidence any alleged injuries sustained prior to January 1991.
Defendant filed two motions in limine. We will discuss each motion in turn.
I. Motion to Preclude Testimony of Plaintiff's Experts
Defendant moves to preclude the testimony of plaintiff's proposed expert witnesses, Ellen R. Smith, OTR, CVE, CPE, an ergonomist; and Steven Valentino, D.O., an orthopedic specialist. (Doc. 20, Def.'s Mot. in Limine).
Federal Rule of Evidence 702 provides that "a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education" may provide opinion testimony "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. Courts have described the function of the district court in determining whether to admit expert testimony as a "gatekeeping" one. The trial judge has "the task of ensuring that an expert's testimony both rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand." Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. , 509 U.S. 579, 597 (1993). Thus, "[t]he objective of that requirement is to ensure the reliability and relevancy of expert testimony. It is to 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 a particular field." Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael , 526 U.S. 137, 152 (1999).
There are three major requirements of a Rule 702 analysis of proposed expert testimony: "(1) the proffered witness must be an expert, i.e., must be qualified; (2) the expert must testify about matters requiring scientific, technical or specialized knowledge[, i.e., reliability]; and (3) the expert's testimony must assist the trier of fact[, i.e., fit].'" United States v. Schiff , 602 F.3d 152, 172 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Pineda v. Ford Motor Co. , 520 F.3d 237, 244 (3d Cir. 2008)).
In the present matter, the defendant does not dispute that plaintiff's experts' testimony would assist the trier of fact. Rather, the defendant first asserts that plaintiff's expert, Ellen R. Smith, is unqualified to provide testimony as to the medical causation of plaintiff's alleged injuries. Defendant also disputes the reliability of the methodology employed by both of plaintiff's experts in their respective determinations ...