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Muhammad v. Bolognone

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 17, 2014

HIBAH MUHAMMAD, Plaintiff,
v.
POLICE OFFICER JAMES BOLOGNONE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

GENE E.K. PRATTER, District Judge.

Plaintiff Hibah Muhammad asks the Court to "preclude evidence or testimony regarding Plaintiff's intoxication." Her motion focuses on the expert report and potential testimony of Defendant's expert, Dr. David Vearrier, who opines that Ms. Muhammad was intoxicated with PCP on the night that Defendant Officer James Bolognone came to her home and employed his taser on her, allegedly causing her to fall out of a second-story window. Officer Bolognone opposes the motion, arguing that Dr. Vearrier's testimony will assist the jury as it deliberates on a factual issue in dispute in this case. For the reasons set out below, the Court will deny Ms. Muhammad's motion.

BACKGROUND

According to her Amended Complaint, on the night of May 10, 2013, Ms. Muhammad was at her residence in a second-floor bedroom when a number of police officers entered her room, tasered her, and caused her to fall out of an open window and sustain serious injuries. Ms. Muhammad filed suit against the City of Philadelphia, City of Philadelphia Police Department, and Officer Bolognone[1] under ยง 1983. The City and Police Department filed, and the Court granted, an unopposed motion for summary judgment, leaving Officer Bolognone as the only remaining defendant.

Weeks after the deadline for Daubert motions, Ms. Muhammad filed what is styled as a motion in limine to preclude evidence or testimony regarding Plaintiff's alleged intoxication.[2] Officer Bolognone contests the motion.

LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Evidence 702 governs the admissibility of expert testimony. It 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.

Fed. R. Evid. 702. The Supreme Court, in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), imposed upon district courts the role of a gatekeeper, charging trial courts to "ensure that any and all scientific evidence is not only relevant, but reliable." ID Sec. Sys. Canada, Inc. v. Checkpoint Sys., Inc., 198 F.Supp.2d 598, 601-02 (E.D. Pa.2002) (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 589). When "faced with a proffer of expert scientific testimony... the trial judge must determine at the outset, pursuant to Rule 104(a), whether the expert is proposing to testify to (1) scientific knowledge that (2) will assist the trier of fact to understand and determine a fact in issue." Id. at 602 (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592). This gatekeeping function of the ...


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