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Evans v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 8, 2017

ROBERT S. EVANS, Administrator of the Estate of Damon Sheron Rush, Plaintiff,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.


          TUCKER, J.

         Presently before the Court is Defendant United States of America's Motion in Limine to Restrict Testimony of Drs. Freese, Hellman, Manion, and Ingram (ECF No. 78). Upon consideration of Defendant's Motion, Plaintiff's response thereto (ECF No. 90) and Defendant's Reply (ECF No. 92), Defendant's Motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.


         On April 17, 2013, Damon Sheron Rush (“Decedent”) fell through a water meter vault at the United States Marine Corp Training Center, where he was working as a landscaper. Over the course of the next two years, Andrew Freese, M.D., and William T. Ingram, D.O., treated Decedent for injuries he sustained as a result of the 2013 accident. These included injuries to his leg, knee, neck, and back. Five days after his accident, Decedent visited Dr. Ingram's office where he was seen by Dennis Winkelman, M.D., an associate of Dr. Ingram. During his visit, Decedent explained that he was performing duties as a landscaper at the Marine Training Center when he stepped on a metal plate which tipped over, causing him to fall into the hole that had been covered by the plate.

         In March 2015, Decedent sought additional treatment with Dr. Freese who recommended that Decedent undergo surgery to address Decedent's chronic pain caused by the accident. On June 2, 2015, Decedent underwent his first surgery, which was a multilevel cervical laminectomy. (Freese Report 3, ECF No. 78-4.) Following this surgery, Decedent suffered an infection in his surgical wounds, which required Decedent to undergo an additional surgery on June 26, 2015. (Freese Report 6.) Three different medical providers prescribed Decedent pain medications in order to help Decedent cope with the pain stemming from his accident and subsequent surgeries. On July 7, 2015, Decedent was found dead in his bed.

         On April 9, 2015, Plaintiff, administrator of Decedent's estate, filed suit against Defendant asserting that Defendant was negligent in maintaining its property and allowing the metal cover to remain in a dangerous condition. On July 9, 2015, Fredric N. Hellman, M.D., performed an autopsy which revealed that the main cause of Decedent's death was “[m]ixed prescription drug intoxication.” (Postmortem Report 1, ECF No. 78-5.) The Postmortem Report, prepared by Dr. Hellman also indicated a “recent history of cervical laminectomies, with complication thereof” was a significant condition contributing to Decedent's death. (Postmortem Report 1, ECF No. 78-5.) On November 24, 2015, Plaintiff amended his original complaint to include a survival action. (First Am. Compl. ECF No. 20.)

         Defendant's instant motion seeks to exclude portions of testimony offered by Plaintiff's expert witnesses. Plaintiff's medical experts, Drs. Freese, Hellman, and Ingram, have each concluded that Decedent's death was caused by the accident which Decedent suffered on Defendant's property on April 17, 2013. These experts have concluded that Decedent died from excessive ingestion of prescription medication, which Decedent was taking to cope with pain from the 2013 accident and subsequent surgeries. Plaintiff has also hired William L. Manion, M.D., to offer his expert opinion regarding the cause of Decedent's death. Dr. Manion agrees that Decedent's death was caused by the 2013 accident. Defendant argues that each of Plaintiff's experts' opinions of causation should be excluded because they lack sufficient basis for their opinions linking Decedent's death to the April 2013 accident.


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

Fed. R. Evid. 702. The Third Circuit has explained that Rule 702 has three major requirements. The proffered witness must: (1) “be an expert, i.e. must be qualified”; (2) “testify about matters requiring scientific, technical[, ] or specialized knowledge”; and (3) present testimony that “assist[s] the trier of fact.” Pineda v. Ford Motor Co., 520 F.3d 237, 244 (3d Cir. 2008). In sum, Rule 702 “embodies a trilogy of restrictions on expert testimony: qualification, reliability and fit.” Schneider ex rel. Schneider v. Fried, 320 F.3d 396, 404 (3d Cir. 2003). “The party offering the expert must prove each of these requirements by a preponderance of the evidence.” Mahmood v. Narciso, 549 F. App'x 99, 102 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing In re TMI Litig., 193 F.3d 613, 663 (3d Cir. 1999)).

         Rule 702 has “a liberal policy of admissibility.” Pineda, 520 F.3d at 243 (quoting Kannankeril v. Terminix Inter., Inc., 128 F.3d 802, 806 (3d Cir. 1997)). Exclusion of expert testimony is the exception rather than the rule because “vigorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence, and careful instruction on the burden of proof are the traditional and appropriate means of attacking shaky but admissible evidence.” ...

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